Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

An ode to Verne Lundquist’s calls and everything college basketball

Archive for July, 2008

Billy Packer “Packs It Up”

Posted by Tommy on July 14, 2008

After 34 consecutive Final Fours, Billy Packer is finally ousted as the “color” commentator. The riveting combination of Jim Nantz and Billy Packer will be broken up for next year’s Final Four. Could this be a result of Packer’s “This Game is Over” call when Kansas was up 38-12 with 7 minutes to go in the first half? I don’t know, but his exit has been long overdue. Now, you may be asking yourself, “shouldn’t this call for a celebration?” This is true, we won’t have to listen to Packer’s golf tournament voice during the most exciting sporting event in the United States. But don’t get the party hats out quite yet, because Packer’s replacement is CBS’s studio analyst Clark Kellogg. Don’t get me wrong, Kellogg does a pretty good job in the studio beside Greg Gumbel, but I really cannot see Kellogg being any more fun to listen to than Packer. Kellogg certainly has the announcing experience for the job, but the huge transition from the studio to calling the biggest games of the college basketball season will show during the Final Four.

The real man for the job, and I’m sure my colleagues will attest to this as well, is Gus Johnson. Just imagine how much crazier UNC’s comeback would have been with Johnson on the mic. Every college basketball fan remembers Johnson’s calls: Ohio State vs. Xavier, UCLA vs. Gonzaga; he has a great history of riveting calls and he really brings out the best of college basketball’s excitement. The Nantz-Kellogg duo won’t bring nearly as much excitement to the Final Four as Gus Johnson would. It’s a sad thing to see such talent go to waste…

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Monday News & Notes

Posted by Zach on July 14, 2008

-Tim Floyd can breath a sigh of relief as stud incoming freshman Demar DeRozan has been cleared to play by the NCAA after receiving a qualifying ACT score. If he hadn’t qualified, a trip to Europe with Brandon Jennings may have followed. DeRozan was Scout’s 6th ranked player in the nation but his stock is flying right now. He was recently invited to the LeBron James Skills Camp and has the most NBA potential of any incoming freshman. He’s the one newcomer I’m most looking forward to seeing this season. USC has a great chance to contend in the Pac-10 with favorites UCLA and Arizona State, led by Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett and DeRozan. FOX Sports also reports they’re in the running for UNC transfer Alex Stepheson.

Lute Olson lashed out at the one-and-done rule the NBA and NCAA have instituted for players guaranteeing each prospect have one year in “college.” Olson, who recently saw his most prized signee Brandon Jennings depart for Europe rather than play at Arizona, said clearly he would not sign any one-and-done players in the near future. Sure, Lute. This will last about six months. Olson proposed a deal where high school kids can enter the NBA straight out of high school, but if they opt for college, they have to stay for two or three years. I can see the reasoning behind this only if we start to see more and more players go to Europe to the point where it gets out of control. Then reform is needed.

– News from the CBS camp: Billy Packer will no longer be the lead announcer for college basketball and the NCAA Tournament. In fact, he’ll no longer be with the network at all. Packer always was a bright and intelligent basketball mind, but came across as arrogant and I never enjoyed him calling the biggest hoops games of the season. I was especially put off when he admitted in front of a camera he didn’t even enjoy sports anymore. Clark Kellogg will now be the lead analyst alongside Jim Nantz, with a rumor circulating that Greg Anthony will replace Kellogg in the studio with Seth Davis and Greg Gumbel. Big ups to CBS for making a much needed transition in their college basketball coverage.

– Andy Katz had some good conversations with Georgetown head coach John Thompson III and NC State coach Sidney Lowe about their chances in 2008-09. Thompson didn’t express too much remorse about losing Vernon Macklin to Florida (somewhat hurtful loss) and Jeremiah Rivers to Indiana (not much of a loss at all) because of the instant replacements in freshmen Greg Monroe and Henry Sims, along with a healthy Chris Wright taking over guard duties. Thompson expecting immediate contention in the loaded Big East may be too much to ask; I see them as a middle-of-the-pack team. Sidney Lowe says last year’s disappointing campaign was marked by a lack of a true point guard and the decline of junior forward Brandon Costner, who saw his PPG go down nearly eight points. Costner and McCauley need to step up as seniors for the Wolfpack to contend.

– Some dates to circle for big games: UCLA will play a home game against Notre Dame in a battle of top ten teams on February 9 in the thick of conference season, and will play @ Texas on December 4 as part of the Big 12/Pac 10 Hardwood series. Missouri, who lost guard Keon Lawrence to Seton Hall, will also be a part of the Puerto Rico tournament with Memphis, USC, Xavier and Virginia Tech. Oklahoma will face USC at home on December 4, also. Kansas State, who added UConn transfer Curtis Kelly, will play @ Michigan State and @ Arizona.

Posted in News And Notes | Tagged: , , , , | 7 Comments »

Looking Back At The 2008 NCAA Tournament

Posted by Patrick on July 12, 2008

Last year’s tournament was by far the most exciting tournament that I have ever watched from beginning to end; sure the George Mason run was amazing, but the Final Four that year was plagued by blowouts. The previous year, North Carolina upsetting Illinois (after Illinois made that incredible comeback on Arizona) was a great game to watch, but the title game wasn’t as exciting as I thought it would be. The only tournament in recent memory that even compares to 2008’s was 2003. Once again it was a very thrilling final, and there were a plethora of first round upsets (the Maryland-UNC Wilmington game, in which Drew Nicholas had the last second prayer slip through the bucket, reminds me of Drake-WKU).

However this years tournament tops it all; and to prove it let’s take a look at each round and its highlights:

Mayo vs. Beasley: A lot of people had been waiting to see this all season. Two of the most decorated freshman in college basketball who led their teams into the NCAA tournament only to meet each other in the first round. Beasley played a much better game, and Kansas State moved on easily, but for awhile this game was as thrilling as any.

Curry gives a preview: Stephen Curry goes off for 40 points against Gonzaga. Anyone that doubted this kid was eating their words after this performance, and it wasn’t even the most impressive thing he did in the tournament.

Duke-Belmont: Nobody (except Duke fans) wanted to see Duke win this game, but also no one in their right mind thought it was even going to be close. If it wasn’t for Gerald Henderson’s last second layup to win the game, this would probably be the biggest upset in NCAA history.

First Round Upsets: Villanova proves their worth in the tournament by beating red hot Clemson. Drake, who had a marvelous season, bows out in the first round of an overtime thriller with Western Kentucky. Siena destroys Vanderbilt, and San Diego beats UConn in OT. Oh yeah, all of this happened in Tampa.

The Second Round also did not disappoint any college hoops fans:

Duke finally loses: I hate to be a Duke hater, but I’m sure many of you were very happy to see Duke be upset this early in the tournament. Sure, it wasn’t as thrilling as if Belmont would have done it, but it was thrilling nonetheless.

Stanford-Marquette: Another tremendous tournament game between two teams from the best conferences in the nation. It took overtime and a Brook Lopez shot that seemed to defy gravity for Stanford to come away with the win.

Big East troubles: Who would have thought that by the time the second round was over that Villanova, West Virginia, and Louisville would be the last three Big East teams standing? Georgetown lost a thriller to Davidson, Notre Dame succumbed to the Washington State defense, Marquette lost in the thriller to Stanford, and Pitt was overcome by Michigan State.

Close calls: Texas A&M almost pulled off the upset of UCLA if not for a Russell Westbrook steal and dunk, and Tennessee also survives overtime with Butler. Texas and Memphis, the top seeds in the South Regional, have trouble getting past their opponents as well.

After the first four days of the NCAA tournament, I was shell-shocked witnessing all of these exciting games, but the Sweet 16 had even more to offer:

Davidson does it again: They squeaked by their first two opponents and many people were saying that was only because they were playing in their home state, but once again “Curry and the Cats” (I may be trademarking this phrase and making T-shirts) put the doubters to rest. This time it was against the best defensive team in the nation, and Davidson won by 17!

Overtime……again: On the other side of the bracket West Virginia was putting their own upset run together, and were very close to making the Elite 8 but Drew Lavender and Xavier pulled it out in overtime.

UCLA has troubles with WKU: Western Kentucky played probably one of the best basketball games that they were capable of playing, but UCLA proved to be too much for the 12 seed that had put together a thrilling run.

Other teams seperate themselves: North Carolina, Louisville, Texas, Memphis, and Kansas all won in blowout victories. It looked as if they were setting up for some great Elite 8 match-ups.

After that round everyone was talking about Davidson and if they would build on what George Mason did in 2005:

Davidson comes “oh so close”: If Jason Richards shot goes in not only would we have had a different National Champion but it could have been Davidson. I know that sounds crazy but they were playing some of the best basketball at the time, and we could have seen the same result against a UNC team if they came out with the sloppiness they displayed in the first half of the Kansas game. However, the miracle run came to an end and Davidson went home, but the good news was that Stephen Curry was only a sophomore.

All One Seeds advance: For the first time ever the committee got it exactly right, the top-four teams would play in the Final Four. It was setting up to be a great finish to a great tournament.

UCLA-Memphis: Memphis got to work early and really ran the court on UCLA, a team that many had picked to win the entire tournament. UCLA kept it close but never really looked like they were going to win the game.

Kansas-UNC: Kansas dominated right out of the gate and looked as if they would blowout the “best team in the nation”. However, UNC fought back and it seemed like they were destined for a miracle comeback, but right when you thought UNC was coming back, Kansas shut the door and moved on to the final.

National Title Game: Do I have to explain this? The improbable comeback, Memphis’ free throw woes, Chalmers’ shot, and Kansas winning easily in OT. You all saw it, and I’m sure you all loved it. This was the best final that I have ever watched. Kansas was crowned NCAA champions.

Well, there is good news and bad news about last year’s tournament. The good news is that it was unbelievable and for all of us that witnessed it, we may have seen the best tournament ever. The bad news is that there might not be one that will ever top it. Of course each tournament will have thrilling moments, but this one had it all: an incredible Cinderella with a player everyone loved to watch, great games in every round, overtimes galore, and of course an amazing National Title Game.  I hope I’m wrong but I don’t know if I’ll ever see a tournament quite as good as 2008’s.

Posted in NCAA Tournament | 3 Comments »

Xavier Lands Crawford

Posted by Zach on July 10, 2008

Former Indiana standout freshman guard Jordan Crawford has decided to transfer to Xavier, according to Kevin Armstrong of SI.com.

Crawford, who averaged 9.7 PPG in his first season at Indiana, has signed his transfer papers and will join Sean Miller’s lineup in the 2009-10 season. It’s possible Crawford may apply for a waiver to gain eligibility at some point this season due to the tumultuous situation at Indiana. Crawford had originally considered Xavier prior to last season, so the relationship with Sean Miller was evident and continued to this process.

Xavier is dealing with the loss of four key members of their Elite 8 team, including point guard Drew Lavender and defensive specialist Stanley Burrell. This season may bring small rebuilding to Xavier, but the addition of Crawford and excellent recruiting classes means the Musketeers will be back sooner than later.

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Stephen Curry Is Switching Positions

Posted by Patrick on July 10, 2008

Davidson fans know that losing Jason Richards, a top point guard in last year’s tournament, could have a devastating effect on the Wildcats success in the 2008-09 season. Without a great player to get Stephen Curry the ball Davidson could run into a lot of problems when playing the likes of: North Carolina, Duke, and any other NCAA tournament team. Bob McKillop has made the decision that Curry will play point guard next season; not only will he have his best player with the ball in his hands every possession, but who better to get Stephen Curry the ball than Curry himself?

There is also a possibility that this could increase his draft stock as he is probably too small to play shooting guard on an NBA team so having the experience playing point is what GMs will want to see. Now, Curry isn’t totally foreign to the position (he played point guard at his high school) and probably won’t see too many transition problems. He has also been honing his point guard skills at all of the elite basketball camps around the country i.e.: LeBron James’, Chris Paul’s, and Steve Nash’s camps. It will certainly be a fun year for Davidson fans watching Curry bring the ball down the court.

Other News:

Doneal Mack is still deciding on whether he will stay at New Orleans or attempt to transfer back to Memphis.

Derrick Caracter is still looking to transfer from Louisville, but he has to finish up some summer courses to get his grades up. Caracter cannot transfer to another Big East school.

The NCAA has a new chairman of the Division 1 Men’s Basketball Committee, UCLA athletic director Dan Guerrero. He will take over for Mike Slive (who is also commissioner of the SEC).

Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers lands another kid in college as son Austin has now signed with Florida for the 2011 season. His other son Jeremiah will be a member of the Indiana Hoosiers, but will have to sit out next year due to transfer rules.

Georgia freshman Jeremy Jacob, a four star recruit, who spent most of last season injured will transfer. He averaged 5.2 PPG last season, he will also still have 4 years of eligibility wherever he ends up.

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Non-Conference Tournaments Update

Posted by Zach on July 10, 2008

Every year I get really excited for the non-conference preseason tournament slate. They always feature outstanding early season matchups and give us fans the ability to evaluate if teams are overrated or undervalued as early as November. While Maui usually shines the brightest as far as quality matchups, this year a different tournament over Thanksgiving takes the crown.

The nationally televised Anaheim Classic will feature top-25 contenders Arizona State, Baylor and Wake Forest. Also in the field are Providence and new coach Keno Davis, WCC contender St. Mary’s, UTEP, Charlotte and two more teams that have yet to be announced.

The Great Alaska Shootout normally draws very solid matchups but is now struggling to survive. Since ESPN has dropped the full telecast of the GAS, they have to pay teams 55,000 to come to Alaska as opposed to just 14,000 four years ago. The Top of the World Classic in Fairbanks recently folded and it’s becoming more and more difficult to attract teams to Alaska. The participants in 2008 are San Diego State, Portland State, Hampton, Northern Illinois, Louisiana Tech, Western Carolina, Alaska-Anchorange and an unknown 8th team.

-The Coaches vs. Cancer leads off the season and you know Duke has to be involved if ESPN is televising. The four regionals are UCLA, Duke, Michigan and Southern Illinois. A Duke-UCLA final at MSG could be very compelling. Michigan has a threat in their region with Massachusetts.

– The Legends Classic is Pittsburgh’s to lose. The other teams are Washington State, Mississippi State and  Texas Tech.

The CBE Classic in Kansas City could feature a Kansas-Florida matchup that has been highly anticipated each year now. Only this year both teams are barely scraping the Top 25 after one of the two has won the National Title the last three years. The favorites to reach KC: Florida, Kansas, Syracuse, Washington.

The San Juan Shootout is underrated with Wright State, South Florida, Murray State and Oral Roberts.

The Puerto Rico Classic could be a tournament to keep a close eye on. John Calipari and Memphis could find themselves facing Demar DeRozan and the USC Trojans in an exciting final. Also in the tournament are Virginia Tech, Xavier, Seton Hall, Hofstra and two more unannounced teams.

The four Preseason NIT regionals: Boston College, Oklahoma, Arizona, Purdue. Don’t put Oklahoma in New York automatically, though. Davidson is in their region. Purdue has Georgia in theirs but they should be able to get past the Bulldogs.

The Old Spice Classic is the cream of the preseason tournament crop over Thanksgiving Weekend, with every game being televised by ESPN. When Georgetown is arguably the fifth or sixth best team in the field, you know you have something special. The big players are Gonzaga, Tennessee and Michigan State. Also armed and potentially dangerous are Maryland, Georgetown, Oklahoma State, Siena and Wichita State.

The Maui Invitational usually is the best tournament. It’s not as star-studded as previous years, but features the best potential final: North Carolina vs. Notre Dame, a battle of top five teams. Also in the field are Alabama, rebuilding Indiana, Oregon, Saint Joe’s, the host Chaminade…and Texas, who could pull a shocker.

The Paradise Jam is also a dandy. UConn and Miami are both top-10 or 15 teams and could meet in a very good final. Watch out for San Diego and Wisconsin, as well. Filling out the field is Southern Miss, La Salle, Valpariso and Iona.

The two games in Las Vegas for the Las Vegas Invite: Kansas State vs. Kentucky, West Virginia vs. Iowa

Not a bad way to start the college hoops season.

Posted in Preseason Tourneys | 7 Comments »

Report: Jennings Fails To Qualify

Posted by Zach on July 9, 2008

Brandon Jennings/ SI.com photo

UPDATE 7/9: Looks like it’s official. Brandon Jennings, the #1 recruit in the nation according to some publications, is taking his game to Europe next season before bolting the NBA.

“Over the course of the last two months I have consulted a number of people in basketball before coming to this decision,” Jennings said in a statement released through Valle. “I would like to thank the University of Arizona for their interest and support through this process.”

The entire situation was handled poorly by the NCAA, waiting and waiting to give Jennings his test scores while delaying his decision and surely frustrating Jennings and his family. Jennings’ agent says many European teams are interested in Jennings and he’ll surely find a home soon. Hopefully this doesn’t become a trend with top recruits skipping school to just play basketball, and some NCAA high-profile coaches insist that it won’t.

Doug Gottlieb says that the move will hurt Jennings draft stock.

——————————

The Arizona basketball team may have just lost their starting point guard, their #1 recruit and a key piece to a Pac 10 title.

Brandon Jennings, this year’s much bandied about recruit for the Wildcats, and ranked as the best freshman in the nation by Scout.com, has failed to achieve a qualifying score on his standardized test, according to the East Valley Tribune. Therefore, Jennings is ineligible to play college basketball in the 2008-09 season and, as he has discussed before publicly, may choose to compete professionally in Europe for one year until the next NBA Draft.

Jennings, who failed the test the first time and passed the second, could start a trend. Top high school players may now follow Jennings and receive payment in Europe without having to worry about classes. This greatly hurts the strength of college basketball having all of its top prospects compete at the college level.

Arizona fans can hold their breath, however. An Arizona spokesman has denied receiving the score, and both the Tuscon Citizen and Arizona Daily Star reported the scores have yet to be tallied for Jennings. ESPN picked up the story late last night on its bottom line, but it was quickly removed. As a college basketball fan, I hope the report is false and he passes.

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Crean’s Situation At IU Worsens

Posted by Tommy on July 9, 2008

After leaving Marquette for the Indiana Hoosiers, Tom Crean has “inherited a tremendous amount of dysfunction” with the dismissals of Armon Basset, Jamarcus Ellis, DeAndre Thomas, and Brandon McGee from the Hoosiers’ basketball team. To add insult to injury, Jordan Crawford and Eli Holman left the program. Now, IU will give up two much needed scholarships for next season due to violations of the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate. Teams can lose scholarships due to the APR if players are academically ineligible, or if players who leave the university wouldn’t have been eligible if they had stayed. The loss of these two scholarships, added with the loss of one scholarship due to Kelvin Sampson’s recruiting violations will really hinder IU in returning to the top tier of the Big 10, a familiar location for Hoosier basketball fans.

These dismissals, leaving players, and violations will make Crean’s job a tough one considering not one familiar name from last year’s team will be returning. We’ll see what Tom Crean can do with eight scholarship players for the ’08-’09 season, and another scholarship available. One piece of good news for the optimistic Hoosier fans is that Crean has a terrific record regarding the academics of his players. It will be interesting to see how Crean will lead one of college basketball’s most prestigious programs through these rough times.

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Tommy’s Early Summer Top 25

Posted by Tommy on July 7, 2008

#1. North Carolina Tar Heels: One of college basketball’s most storied programs is returning its top eight scorers from last year’s Final Four squad, including Naismith Award winner Tyler Hansbrough.  It’s needless to say that Danny Green and the Tar Heels will be dancing next year and Roy Williams will have his team poised to make another deep run into March Madness.

#2. Louisville Cardinals: Despite the departure of David Padgett, Pitino and the Cards have enough to take a Big East title. Edgar Sosa needs to develop his skills as a point guard in order to orchestrate the offense, and the talent is certainly there for Sosa as well as his teammates in the backcourt, Jerry Smith and Preston Knowles. The addition of freshman Samardo Samuels will help bolster the Cards’ powerful frontcourt.

#3. UCLA Bruins: Ben Howland and the Bruins are locked and loaded for the 08-09 campaign with their new weapons, including Jrue Holiday, J’Mison Morgan and Drew Gordon. Not to mention that backcourt stars Josh Shipp and Darren Collison are returning. The freshman class is going to need to contribute a lot if the Bruins really want to be successful, but I think the Bruins’ talent and athleticism will overwhelm a lot of their opponents.

#4. Pittsburgh Panthers: The Panthers are returning team leader Levance Fields, Sam Young, one of the best players from last year’s sophomore class, Co-Big East Rookie of the Year DeJuan Blair and Mike Cook received another year of eligibility due to an ACL tear. Jamie Dixon will have a good, hard-working core of players to work with. Look for them to make a run for not only a Big East title, but a national title as well.

#5. Notre Dame Fighting Irish: The Irish return Big East Player of the Year Luke Harangody, sharp shooter Kyle McAlarney, Tory Jackson, a hard-working guard with a lot of talent, and Zach Hillesland, a banger down in the post for coach Mike Brey. This inside-outside combination should work very well for the Irish. The only departing senior from the 07-08 team is Rob Kurz, so the Irish will have plenty of depth at every position.

#6. UConn Huskies: Last year’s Huskies had a very impressive second half of the season all the way up to the NCAA Tourney. I expect much of the same success from this year’s version. The return of Hasheem Thabeet’s presence, as well as Jeff Adrien’s energy, should make for one of the stronger frontcourt duos in the country. Jerome Dyson and Craig Austrie highlight a dynamic backcourt for Jim Calhoun.

#7. Duke Blue Devils: The Dukies return plenty of young talent for the the 08-09 season, especially in the backcourt. Greg Paulus, Gerald Henderson, Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer will make up Coach K’s backcourt. They compliment one another very nicely, and have different skill sets that will help Duke succeed. The achilles heel for Duke will be their frontcourt. Lance Thomas and Brian Zoubek are two players that have greatly underperformed expectations. In order for Duke to be successful, their post players need to polish their offensive skills and be much more agressive. Another question mark for the Dukies is whether they can still rely on the 3-ball with the backed up line.

#8. Michigan State Spartans: Despite the loss of their team leader Drew Neitzel, the Spartans are returning plenty of talent. Drew Naymick is the only other senior that departed, so there will be plenty of depth for coach Tom Izzo to work with. Raymar Morgan will cause plenty of mismatches with his size, speed, and ability to shoot. Kalin Lucas and Travis Walton are two very talented guards that play terrific defense and have plenty of athleticism. Izzo should have a nice roster to work with and look for Michigan State’s suffocating defense to really frustrate their opponents.

#9. Purdue Boilermakers: The baby Boilermakers had a terrific run in Big 10 conference play last season. Look for Coach of the Year Matt Painter to have another great season after losing not one of his notable players. Yes, that means Chris Kramer, Robbie Hummel, and E’Twaun Moore are all back. The only thing the Boilermakers lack is a strong post presence, but they seem to do just fine without one.

#10. Arizona State Sun Devils: The Sun Devils look very promising for this year’s campaign with the truly dynamic duo of James Harden and Jeff Pendergraph. If these two can get strong support, look for Herb Sendek to bring the Devils from the bottom of the Pac-10 to a force to be reckoned with nationally.

#11. Marquette Golden Eagles: The Golden Eagles have one of the best backcourts in the country. Seniors Dominic James, Jerel McNeal, and Wes Matthews will do the majority of the scoring for Marquette. The “Big 3′” have the potential to lead their team to a great season, but James needs to become much more consistent if he wants to lead the team as a point guard. If James has another spotty season, Maurice Acker and David Cubillan can readily run the point for new coach Buzz Williams.

#12. Gonzaga Bulldogs: Team leader Jeremy Pargo’s decision to come back to Spokane for his senior year, as well as some developing young talent, make the Zags the best “mid-major” in the country. Pargo, along with Matt Bouldin, make up a very strong backcourt for Mark Few. If wing man Austin Daye breaks out of his shell, and Stephen Gray hits the three like he did in the game versus Davidson, the Zags will be a tough out for anybody in the country.

#13. Texas Longhorns: With the departure of sophomore point guard DJ Augustin, the Longhorn offense will be headed by sharpshooter AJ Abrams and versatile wing man Damion James. Connor Atchley, as well as Justin Mason, have improved greatly over their careers and look to be key contributors for Rick Barnes. The versatility of the Longhorns, especially James and Atchley, will give their Big 12 opponents a very tough time.

#14. Miami Hurricanes: One of the best players in the ACC, Jack McClinton, will be the go-to guy for the ‘Canes once again. But the emergence of James Dews’ shooting and Dwayne Collins’ explosive inside play can propel the ‘Canes further into the postseason. The only question that comes to mind is how will sophomore Eddie Rios handle the point. He gave Frank Haith headaches last year, but if he can run the point McClinton can run the two guard, his natural position.

#15. Oklahoma Sooners: Blake Griffin may have to do a lot of work on his own if the Sooners are to be successful, but I believe he has the ability to take over a game down low. The arrival of one of the most underrated recruits in the country, Willie Warren, will certainly help Griffin with some backcourt play. This inside-outside combination will be a force to reckoned with in the Big 12.

#16. Wake Forest Demon Deacons: Ish Smith and Jeff Teague make up the one of the quickest back courts in the nation, and their development (both were underclassmen last season) will be the key for Dino Gaudio’s squad. The two guards along with James Johnson and freshman Al-Farouq Aminu, give the Demon Deacons a very explosive, young line-up with tremendous upside.

#17. Tennessee Volunteers: Bruce Pearl is going to have another one of his prototype teams: athletic, hard-working, and in great condition. Wayne Chism, Tyler Smith, and JP Prince will be the main threats for the Vols. Transfer Bobby Maze will take the weight off of JP Prince to run the point, which he mightly struggled with last season.

#18. Villanova Wildcats: ‘Nova showed their ability to beat the big teams with their upset of Clemson in the first round of last year’s tournament. Many of the same faces are back for the Wildcats this season, including go-to guy Scottie Reynolds. Reynolds is a terrific young point guard, and now that he is a junior he should be one of the best players in the Big East. Last year’s emergence of tough guard Corey Fisher will help Reynolds in the backcourt, and Dante Cunningham and Dwayne Anderson should be strong contributors as well.

#19. West Virginia Mountaineers: Bob Huggins’ incoming recruiting class, headed by Devin Ebanks and Kevin Jones, will make instant contributions. Alex Ruoff, Da’Sean Butler and Joe Muzulla are three veterans that will make up a terrific backcourt. The loss of Joe Alexander will hurt the Mountaineers inside, but I think they can work around that.

#20. Southern California Trojans: The losses of superstar OJ Mayo and Davon Jefferson really form a big hole to fill, but freshman phenom Demar DeRozan certainly has the type of explosive talent to fill that hole. The returns of Taj Gibson, Daniel Hackett, and Dwight Lewis give the Trojans plenty of options on the offensive end.

#21. Memphis Tigers: The departures of Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey will really hurt the Tigers this season, but they do have plenty of talent returning from last year’s National Runner-Up team. Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, Doneal Mack, and Willie Kemp give the Tigers plenty of big-game experience. The arrival of freshman Tyreke Evans will help the Tigers dominate the C-USA once again.

#22. Baylor Bears: Coach Scott Drew leads a team with tremendous upside again this year. The Bears’ success was one of the best stories over the course of last season. Curtis Jerrells and company have the talent to take the Bears a step further. The main question for Baylor is whether they can play good defense for 40 minutes, especially against big-time opponents.

#23. Wisconsin Badgers: Yes, they lost their two best players in Michael Flowers and Brian Butch, but Bo Ryan keeps on bringing his team to the top no matter who they lose. We know the Badgers will suffocate their opponents with their hard-nosed defense (the only reason they’re in the Top 25), but can Trevon Hughes, Marcus Landry, Jason Bohannon and Joe Krabbenhoft provide enough scoring to beat big time opponents?

#24. Florida Gators: Last year’s Gators were one of the youngest teams in the NCAA, meaning Billy Donovan will be returning most of his talent. Marreesse Speights was drafted by the 76ers, but other than that many of the same faces will be suiting up in blue and orange next year. Sharpshooting Nick Calathes and point guard Jai Lucas will lead the attack for the 08-09 Gators.

#25. San Diego Torreros: The Torreros proved what they are capable of throughout last year’s post-season by taking the WCC tournament title and upsetting the #4 seed UConn Huskies. Oh, and did I mention that SDU isn’t losing one player? That’s right, there wasn’t one senior on last year’s WCC tournament champion team.

Posted in Team Rankings | 5 Comments »

The Best And Worst Decisions Of The 2008 NBA Draft

Posted by Patrick on July 7, 2008

Jeremy Pargo/ Seattle TimesEvery year when the NBA draft rolls around, there is a period where basketball players have to ask themselves the question:  Should I enter my name in the NBA draft or withdraw and return to college? Of course, it is pretty early to say if the decisions that were made were the right ones, especially this early. However, some decisions seemed pretty questionable and some decisions turned out to be very beneficial to the player whose stock was in question. What were the best/worst decisions that players made for this NBA draft?

Bad Decision-DeAndre Jordan (Texas A&M)- After the college season, it looked as if Jordan would be a top pick at the center position right behind Brook Lopez. Jordan looked like a guy who could come into the NBA and provide a team with a good rebounder and an okay scorer. However, when the draft camps got under way and Jordan saw his stock keep falling and falling he still decided to keep his name in the draft. What he got himself was a 2nd round pick to the Los Angeles Clippers, a team that has a very successful center in Chris Kaman and has some great power forwards in Al Thornton, Elton Brand, and even Nick Fazekas. Jordan should have taken his name out of the draft and returned to school where he could have polished his skills and in 2010 maybe be a top 10 pick.

Good Decision-Jeremy Pargo (Gonzaga)- Pargo will be a very good player in the NBA at some point in his career, and he probably would have been a good rookie next season. However, in a draft that was loaded with guards it looked as if Pargo would be a second round selection and thus have to settle for second round money. He now knows how good of a player he can be, and NBA GM’s also know that he could be on their draft slate next season. Pargo will have another year to play on a great college team and be a potential top 20 pick next season.

Bad Decision-Chase Budinger (Arizona)- There are probably a lot of people that disagree with me here, but its been two years in a row where Budinger has looked to be a lottery pick and I just don’t see him improving his stock so much next year that he will propel himself to a top 10 pick. Budinger will be a great NBA player, and he is going back to a team that probably won’t be too successful after the loss of Brandon Jennings and Jerryd Bayless. Budinger should have kept his name in the draft and received the millions of dollars that comes with being a lottery pick.

Good Decision-Jerel McNeal (Marquette)- McNeal got his name onto a lot of teams boards during last year’s NCAA tournament where he almost carried Marquette to an upset over Stanford in the second round. By backing out of the draft he will not only improve his stock, but he will come back to a team that is loaded and ready to win next year. McNeal is a great defensive player and will play a big role on an NBA team some day, but he made the right decision to pass up a second round selection in 2008 for a possible first round selection in ’09.

Bad Decision-Davon Jefferson (USC)- I really thought Jefferson would pull out of the draft, and when he decided to stay I knew that it would be a bad decision. Just how bad was it? Well, Jefferson didn’t get drafted and now will be forced to either try out for NBA teams over the summer or play in Europe. This kid really could have had a good future if he would have stayed in college and possibly been a mid second round pick in the future.

Bad Decision-DJ Augustin (Texas)- I really feel like Augustin could have been the No.1 pick in 2009, and also have been in serious contention for Player of the Year awards in the NCAA. Augustin was a high pick, but he could have had more if he waited one more season. Don’t forget if he stays at Texas they are a national championship caliber team.

Other players considered- Marreese Speights (Florida, Good Decision), Kosta Koufos (Ohio State, Good Decision)

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