Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Archive for September, 2008

Analyzing the Top Three Coaching Changes

Posted by Patrick on September 30, 2008

One of the more interesting parts of the college basketball offseason is to see all of the changes that are made at head coach from school to school. At 46 schools this season there will be a new face calling the plays on the sidelines. However, I will only look at the “top three”.

Lately, as college basketball has become more popular, the pressures of winning (especially at major schools) are enormous, and sometimes just absurd. Don’t believe me? Just ask former Louisiana State coach John Brady who was fired after making the Final Four just two seasons prior. Now Brady is coaching at the somewhat less prestigious Arkansas State University. Long gone are the days when a coach goes out on his own terms. It’s a win-now mentality for most schools and its causing the coaching carousel to become much more interesting in the offseason.

Here’s a look at how I grade the top three offseason coaching changes (of course this is all speculation, just like trying to grade the NFL draft in May):

Providence College: Tim Welsh (215-148, 145-126 with Providence) = Out

Keno Davis (28-5)= In

Keno Davis was the AP National Coach of the Year in 2008 after leading Drake to an MVC regular season title and MVC tournament championship in just his first year of coaching (The Bulldogs were picked to finish 10th in the MVC preseason poll). Davis takes over for TIm Welsh, who failed to lead Providence to an NCAA appearance despite being the head coach for 10 seasons. Its tough to say how Davis will handle all of the pressure of coaching in a major conference (no more Evansville/Indiana State twice a year), and if he can reel in big recruits to a school in Rhode Island. However, I think Davis will eventually get things under control especially if he can continue to stress defensive play and shooting the three consistently. Without a doubt he will have better athletes available at Providence, so it shouldn’t be long before the Friars are dancing once again. Grade: A-

Oklahoma State University: Sean Sutton (39-28) = Out

Travis Ford (123-116) = In

After Bill Self turned down a ridiculous amount of money to stay at Kansas where he had just won a national championship, Oklahoma State was forced to look elsewhere for a head coach. Enter Travis Ford, an experienced coach from the Northeast that almost led UMass to an unlikely NCAA tournament bid.  UMass eventually went on to lose the NIT championship game to Ohio State. The thing that many people are wondering is why did Ford get so much money when really his coaching resume isn’t that impressive. He brings a defensive attitude to Oklahoma State which definitely had problems on the defensive end, but I wouldn’t say Ford was worth the money. Grade: C+

Louisiana State University: Butch Pierre (5-5) = Out

Trent Johnson (159-122)=In

Louisiana State lost a lot of my respect when they fired John Brady just two years after making a Final Four, but they definitely made great choice when they hired Trent Johnson, former Stanford coach. Johnson was a big question mark when he came into Stanford but he proved everyone wrong, landing big recruits and leading the Cardinal to the Sweet 16 in 2008.  If Johnson can recruit as well as he did in the Pac-10 he should have no problem turning the Tigers program around and getting them back into the NCAA tournament. Grade: A

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Friday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on September 26, 2008

An edition of Friday’s News and Notes to catch up on this past weeks biggest college basketball headlines:

– Connecticut freshman Nate Miles is supposed to be a key cog for the Huskies ascent to the top of the college hoops rankings this season. The talented wing will be a sparkplug off the bench for Jim Calhoun…if he can stay out of trouble. Miles violated his restraining order 16 minutes after receiving it in Hartford yesterday, posting a $2,500 bond and is scheduled to go to court later this month. Miles came with a reputation out of the many high schools he attended for being a nuisance without much supervision. Calhoun hopes this is just a minor transgression for the budding freshman.

– One of the top coaches in the nation, Pittsburgh’s Jamie Dixon, received a three-year extension on his already lengthy contract on Wednesday. The deal extends through the 2015-16 season and he will receive a raise from the $1.3 million he made last season. The Panthers have averaged nearly 27 wins per season under Dixon’s watch even if they’re not exactly a recruiting powerhouse. Dixon should be rewarded. Not many coaches could have rallied his team without stars like Levance Fields and Mike Cook to win the Big East tournament and receive a 4-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

– Sticking with the Big East theme, good news for Syracuse fans came out early this week. Talented guard Eric Devendorf has received another year of athletic eligibility after being granted a hardship waiver due to last season’s devastating knee injury. For this upcoming season, Devendorf will be a junior athletic-wise. He forms a great backcourt with Johnny Flynn and returnee Andy Rautins for the Orange, who are looking to contend in the loaded conference.

– Kyle Whelliston chimes in with another gem. This time the topic is the newly-formed Great West conference that will form before the 2009-10 season. The name doesn’t tell the entire story- NJIT will be a member and New Jersey isn’t exactly considered a Western state. Whelliston points out the hardships these teams often have to go through scheduling games and flying coast-to-coast to get walloped by top-ranked teams looking for cupcakes. He also brings up the question of whether this conference will be rewarded with an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, something the committee probably wants to avoid.  Texas Pan-American, NJIT, South Dakota, North Dakota, Houston Baptist and Utah Valley make up the current conference slate.

– This is only Insider, but Andy Katz’s blog catches up with three possible tournament teams this fall: Ohio State, Wake Forest and Nevada. Some gems: Matta thinks B.J. Mullens is more of a Greg Oden than a Kosta Koufos, meaning he’ll be someone planted firmly in the paint this season; the team hasn’t cleared its point guard situation, a big reason why I think they’ll finish behind Wisconsin who boast Trevon Hughes; Wake Forest has installed a Dick Bennett-style defense and their freshmen look great in workouts; Ishmael Smith should be ready for the season for Wake; Nevada coach Mark Fox managed to get North Carolina to come to Reno this season in a 2-for-1 deal.

– Luke Winn has a worthwhile article attempting to predict the breakout players for this season using possessions used and efficiency ratings. The article circles Dar Tucker of DePaul, LaceDarius Dunn of Baylor and Austin Daye of Gonzaga as potential breakout candidates. Tucker is a definite possibility, but will anyone notice on DePaul?  We’ll have our own list of breakout candidates when the season draws nearer.

Hope everyone has a great weekend and thanks for reading. More and more articles will be on the way as we head towards November.

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New Small School Trend Legit?

Posted by Tommy on September 26, 2008

As the hot summer days transition to cool fall evenings, the college football season is heating up and controlling the collegiate sports world. But to the liking of college basketball fans, the basketball season is slowly creeping up. In the little basketball news there has been, an interesting trend has been developing that I think should be brought to the attention of college basketball fans. As my colleague Zach pointed out in his quick recruiting article, big-time recruits like Rashanti Harris have opted to attend smaller schools like Georgia State. In addition to stud freshmen recruits attending smaller schools like Georgia State, Akron and Fresno State, Kyle Whelliston wrote a fascinating article documenting the increased amount of transfers flocking from larger major-conference schools to smaller schools. According to Whelliston, “there will be over 50 “trickle-down transfers” becoming eligible in the 2008-09 season” who will make a huge impact on the quality of their respective teams. The most extreme case is 7-foot junior Jonathon Huffman who decided to follow an assistant coach whom he developed a relationship with from Louisville to Iona. Yes, the Iona who won just 3 games two seasons ago.

This interesting trend is definitely worth keeping an eye on for the next couple of years to see whether mid-major programs keep landing big-time freshmen and transfers or this is just an anomaly. In my opinion, the trend is great for college basketball and I think its continuation for the coming years is a good possibility. Yeah, there are advantages to going to a top-notch program like Louisville: you get to appear on ESPN every Saturday in front of thousands of raving fans as well as millions of college basketball fans, and not to mention members of the media and NBA scouts, but some players can’t perform under that kind of pressure. At a school like Georgia State, a player can avoid the pressure the media provides and focus on basketball and a little less on schoolwork all while putting up huge numbers. Also, as my colleague pointed out, it worked for guys like Courtney Lee and Jason Thompson who got plenty of minutes and in turn, plenty of exposure at their small schools of Western Kentucky and Rider. So if players with that kind of talent like Huffman and the other transfers/big-time recruits, keep succeeding in getting their name in NBA Draft talks, I think this trend will become more popular.

As for the effects on college basketball, it’s great to see the level of play improve for these mid-major and low-major schools. A lot of these players were getting less than five minutes per game for their major schools, and those minutes were probably mostly in non-conference blowouts. Now that these players have transferred, they can display their talent by playing a large part of every game and putting up big numbers. If this trend does in fact continue, we could see more and more mid-major teams making noise during march madness like Stephen Curry and Davidson. For this season, it will be interesting to see how the change of scenery will play out for these transfers and whether we see more major conference bench players decide to come to smaller schools.

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ESPN Hits The Jackpot With Hoops Marathon

Posted by Zach on September 24, 2008

No longer will the opening of the college basketball season be hidden in the shadows of competing sporting events, a slew of meaningless games that the general public barely realize are even occuring. Nope, not this year. ESPN has decided to install a radical idea on Tuesday, November 18 to show 14 games in 24 hours starting after Monday Night Football on ESPN heading straight to Memphis for their tilt against Massachusetts. Sure, some games will take place before 11/18, but this is certainly a welcomed event, even if it is on a Tuesday rather than a prefered Saturday or Sunday.

Here’s the schedule:

• Midnight: UMass at Memphis (ESPN)
• 2 a.m.: Fresno St. at St. Mary’s (ESPN)
• 4 a.m.: Idaho St. at Hawaii (ESPN)
• 6 a.m.: College Hoops Tip-Off Special (ESPN)
• 10 a.m.: Penn at Drexel (ESPN)
• Noon: Liberty at UNC-Asheville (ESPN)
• 2 p.m.: Iowa at Kansas (women) (ESPN)
• 4 p.m.: Centenary at Baylor (ESPN)
• 6 p.m.: Richmond at Syracuse (ESPN)
• 7 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Purdue (ESPNU)- Most likely Purdue vs. Georgia
• 7:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Boston College (ESPN2)- Most likely BC vs. Saint John’s
• 8 p.m.: College GameDay-Chapel Hill (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Kentucky at North Carolina (ESPN)
• 9 p.m.: Florida Gulf Coast at Kansas (ESPNU)
• 9:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Oklahoma (ESPN2)- Most likely Oklahoma vs. Davidson
• 11:30 p.m.: NIT Regional Final-Arizona (ESPN2)- Most likely Arizona vs. UAB

Crazy, right?

Both the Saint Mary’s and Hawaii games will tip-off at 11 PM local time to cater to this extravaganza. There are more than a few intriguing games on the slate for this special day. The premiere event is UNC-Kentucky, but that will most likely be a blowout. While I like Kentucky to improve throughout the season as Patrick Patterson re-gains strength and their point guard situation resolves, North Carolina has way too much firepower, especially in Chapel Hill. College Gameday will be there for a rare November edition.

Also on the slate are four very respectable preseason NIT games, assuming all goes to plan (any Gardner Webb’s in the house?) Purdue shouldn’t have too much problem with Georgia, but it’s still a matchup between two BCS conference teams in mid-November. If BC and SJU can avoid upset stings to Loyola (MD) and Cornell, respectively, this game would showcase Tyrese Rice to a national audience for the first time this season. The two best are the late editions. Can the Oklahoma guards like Crocker, Warren and Johnson handle Curry? Who will guard Blake Griffin? Also, the finale could turn into a shootout between Chase Budinger and Robert Vaden. I’ll be staying up for those two.

Watch out for Richmond against Syracuse, at least for a scare. You know how the Orange get with non-conference, competitive mid-major teams in November. Richmond fits the bill. This will also be the first glimpse at how Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins emerge from devestating injuries and if the flashy Johnny Flynn can continue to improve at point guard. The first game will also answer some questions: How will the Memphis additions (Evans being the most touted) flow with mainstays Dozier, Anderson and Taggart? How will Memphis handle the up-tempo play of UMass, an always dangerous team.

Don’t forget about the other Curry brother’s debut for Liberty and the first look at Saint Mary’s, a top mid-major in the nation this season.

This idea for a true tip-off marathon by ESPN is a tremendous one. While the ratings may not be sky-high due to the Tuesday slot, I’m hoping it continues down the road as a tradition.

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Quick Recruiting Update

Posted by Zach on September 20, 2008

There’s been an influx of stunning recruiting news this past week, so it’s time for a roundup:

– Two more top-25 players committed over the last few days, most recently Avery Bradley pledging his allegiances to Rick Barnes and Texas, who are quickly putting together one of the most impressive classes in the nation. Bradley is a do-everything point guard that has an advanced mid-range jumper and is positively mature for his age on the defensive end of the court. He’s ranked #10 in the nation for 2009 by and will team up with Shaun Williams, who most consider the top HS player in Texas, for possibly Rick Barnes’ top class in recent years. Also committing over this past week is Tyler Honeycutt, who chose Bradley’s second choice- the UCLA Bruins. Honeycutt is a 6’8 forward ranked #21 overall by Scout who saw his stock soar this summer at elite camps. Honeycutt opted for UCLA over rival USC.

– With the Bradley and Honeycutt commitments, along with Abdul Gaddy choosing Arizona recently, 16 of the top 30 prospects in the 2009 class have made their decision. Some of the top names in the class are still ripe for the picking, though. This group includes Renardo Sidney (Arizona State, Kentucky, USC, UCLA, Texas), John Wall (Baylor, Kansas, Kentucky), Derrick Favors (Florida, Florida State, Georgia, Georgia Tech) and Xavier Henry (Kansas, Memphis, North Carolina). The top overall class for 2009 still remains in the hands of Roy Williams and North Carolina, who have five top 75 prospect locked up, and appear to be in the running for Xavier Henry, which would be just unfair. Other top classes include Villanova, Arizona and Kansas.

– The real story of this recruiting season is a developing pattern that, frankly, I think is great for college basketball: top-flight prospects committing to mid-major schools. The newest example, and really the most stunning, is the #26 player overall from Rivals opting for Georgia State. That’s right, Georgia State. Rashanti Harris will be the biggest man in the history of the Georgia State campus. Harris had plenty of academic problems to derail possible suitors, but he still chose GSU over Memphis, Arkansas and Mississippi State. Harris had a great relationship with coach Rod Barnes and decided to stray far, far away for the norm of top-30 prospects and commit to a low-major program. I say, good for him.

This isn’t the first example of huge prospects going to small schools. And I’m not talking about Gonzaga, Butler or Nevada. Four of the top-13 center prospects are heading to these smaller schools. As someone who has season tickets to a mid-major school, I say this is excellent for the state of college basketball. Spread the wealth a bit and get more people interested in more schools. Of the centers, Harris to Georgia State joins Zeke Marshall to Akron, Greg Smith to Fresno State and Aaric Murray to La Salle. Throw in Nevada and you have Luke Babbitt. Also, don’t forget DeMarcus Cousins,  Rivals #2 prospect in the entire 2009 class, will be a UAB Blazer.

Gary Parrish of CBS thinks the change is due to a number of elite prospects noticing star players from these small schools still going high in drafts. While before they felt obligated to commit to a BCS school to receive attention, stories like Courtney Lee, George Hill and Jason Thompson have turned the tide. They now feel comfortable going with the best option for themselves. And that’s a good thing.

Quick note: Davidson-Purdue and Southern Illinois-Saint Mary’s in the Wooden Classic this season.

College basketball isn’t that far off, folks.

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Number Two Debate

Posted by Zach on September 16, 2008

The debate will rage on from today till the season opening tip-off: who is the second best team in the nation behind North Carolina? Four Big East teams can boast their credentials, along with a Tobacco Road ACC power who looks to challenge their biggest rival, a perennial Final Four participant, and a sleeper team that could emerge in the Big 10 under the tutelage of Tom Izzo. You can make a compelling case for any one of these teams- most have the talent, depth, toughness and balance to contend for the #2 ranking throughout the year. Here are the cases for each team to be ranked second in the nation:

Connecticut–  The Huskies hit their peak late in the season last year before the crushing injury of A.J. Price marked the beginning of the end of their season against 13-seed San Diego. Price, after persevering through a college career that involved laptop theft, brain injuries and a torn ACL, is finally 100% ready for contact practices and ready to lead Connecticut back to the promised land. Joining Price in the backcourt are two special talents- his sidekick Jerome Dyson and freshman sensation Kemba Walker, who looked outstanding in the U-18 championships this summer. The frontcourt doesn’t lack for size or stability. Hasheem Thabeet continues to develop as a dominant big man in the conference, will he make the leap? Jeff Adrien is an all-around do-everything type of force rebounding and scoring. Don’t forget about Nate Miles as a potential difference maker for the Huskies.

Louisville– The Cardinals are as deep and talented as the Huskies this season. By the end of the season, their best player might be freshman Samardo Samuels, a 7-foot behemoth in the low post that will create some intriguing matchups with Thabeet and Harangody. The Cardinals pose two athletic and versatile forwards with triple-double threat Terrence Williams and possible lottery pick Earl Clark. The wild card for Louisville, possibly determining whether they’re a top-2 or top-15 team, is the development of Edgar Sosa at point guard. Is he mature enough to lead a Final Four caliber team to the title? Louisville lost Derrick Caracter earlier than expected, but the frontcourt should be fine. The question mark lies with Sosa and the production from the backcourt.

Notre Dame– The Irish struck gold with the transfers of Scott Martin from Purdue and Ben Hansbrough from Mississippi State this off-season, but both are ineligible this season. Don’t feel too bad for Mike Brey, he’ll be just fine. The stars are Luke Harangody and Kyle McAlarney. Harangody is a 20-10 threat who is looking to win another Big East Player of the Year award dominating opponents in the post with his wide frame and unique scoring ability. Ben’s older brother, Tyler (you might have heard of him) could match up with Harangody in Maui this November. Kyle McAlarney is one of the best three-point shooters in the nation and has point guard Tory Jackson, the ultimate drive-and-dish playmaker, to get him the rock in open spots with good looks. The question: Can Notre Dame match the depth/athleticism of Louisville and Connecticut?

Pittsburgh– The NCAA put the hammer down on the eligibility of Mike Cook at the wing spot for Pittsburgh, meaning Gilbert Brown will have to take over some of the scoring load. Most of that load will be handed off to three worthy players- forward Sam Young, guard Levance Fields and center DeJuan Blair. Young emerged in the Big East Tournament last March as an all-around force with an efficient scoring touch and the ability to make clutch shots. Fields is back from his own injury suffered just days after Cook’s ACL tear, and looks to regain his standing as a top Big East guard from the perimeter. The sophomore of the group, DeJuan Blair, needs to improve free throw shooting to become a consistent threat, but the knack for finding the basket and his intense rebounding ability is too excellent to ignore.

Michigan State
– The Spartans are in constant contention every season under coach Tom Izzo, but this season could be the return to the National Title last experienced when Mateen Cleaves led MSU. The point guard for Michigan State this year is Kalin Lucas, a speedster play-making slasher with the ability to create for any one of the Spartans supporting cast- Morgan, Suton, Roe or Walton. Lucas could end up being the top PG in the nation by February. Delvin Roe is the five-star freshman ready to make an immediate impact, and Goran Suton is a dependable post presence who needs to be more aggressive for the Spartans to be successful. Raymar Morgan had a bit of a disappointing 2007-08, look for him to come back with a vengeance this season and help Michigan State edge Purdue for the Big Ten title.

– The Blue Devils could go either way. I like their pieces, but the same issue that’s haunted Duke since the departure of Shelden Williams could ultimately lead to their demise- the lack of a scoring forward/center. Olek Czyz and Miles Plumlee are not ready for prime time, and Lance Thomas has proven to be a soft forward who refuses to bang with any strong opposition. You have to love their guards, though. Greg Paulus continues to progress into a top-notch point guard, even if his detractors refuse to admit it. Kyle Singler can shoot from the outside and wing freshman Eliot Williams will be the next Duke star. The best player of the group is Gerald Henderson, a sensational and athletic playmaker who can shoot and drive. The Duke-UNC battles should once again be epic this season.

– The Bruins lost two top-5 picks in Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love to the NBA Draft. They also lost their best defensive player in Luc Richard Mbah A Moute. The sensational job of Ben Howland since taking over the UCLA program is shown in the Bruins still being in contention for the #2 spot in the country after losing that much talent and scoring load. They reeled in the best recruiting class in the nation led by Jrue Holiday, Jerime Anderson and Malcolm Lee in the backcourt, along with J’Mison Morgan providing starting ability right away in the frontcourt. Darren Collison never was 100% healthy last season and went through a disappointing campaign. Look for Collison to team up with Josh Shipp to aid the Bruins in terms of jump shooting, team leadership and continuity.

My quick rankings in order: Connecticut, Notre Dame, Louisville, Pittsburgh, UCLA, Michigan State, Duke

Look for a News and Notes sometime this week from me. Tommy and Patrick are real busy with school, work and various sports, but we’ll be back in full swing by October to preview each conference, rank players and give predictions before guaranteeing a post every day in November.

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News And Notes: 8/29-9/5

Posted by Zach on September 5, 2008

Hey everyone (if there is anyone). No, we’re not dead. It’s just been harder posting lately due to the beginning of school and lack of any serious news in the college basketball world. Things will heat up on the site in October with in-depth conference previews and player rankings before the start of the season in November, when there will be a guaranteed post every day by either Pat, Tommy or me. At least until the end of this month, look for the occasional post as well as a News and Notes article from me every Friday night summing up the previous week or so in college hoops. Here’s another edition:

– Not only did the current Kansas Jayhawks team have a hectic week both inside and outside the United States, but their former players experienced a few trials as well. Two stars from last year’s national championship Kansas team were thrown out of an NBA rookie program for having marijuana and women in their hotel room. Arthur denies any wrongdoing, but it was clearly an immature decision by two immature people. David Stern came down on them hard, and now we know a bit more on why their draft stock plummeted so severely on draft day (at least Chalmers).

Also in Lawrence news, the current KU team spent this past week in Ottawa facing off in exhibition games and getting a feel for, other than Sherron Collins, an entirely new main cast. It was a smart move for coach Bill Self to schedule this trip and build continuity both on and off the court. Not surprising is the emergence of Cole Aldrich north of the border as a dominant big man prepared physically for Big 12 basketball. Also faring well were freshmen Tyshawn Taylor with two 20+ point games and Travis Releford, who scored 25 points in the second exhibition. They also received good news that Marcus and Markief Morris have been cleared by the NCAA to play this season. Remember, it’s not rebuilding…it’s reloading.

– Other teams playing exhibitions at this time: Kansas’ conference foe Missouri in Ontario. They’ve been led by DeMarre Carroll, who scored 20 points in the thrashing of the Ontario All-Stars, and freshman guard Marcus Denmon, totaling 23 points against Brock University. Virginia looks to be the weak link in the ACC this season, but does have an impressive rookie: Sylvan Landesberg, who scored 18 points and grabbed 13 rebounds in a rout over St. Lawrence College. Encouraging news for NC State as the much maligned Brandon Costner scored 31 points in their game vs. York University. Sure, the competition is less than stellar, but these are still early signs on the progression of certain teams for the upcoming campaign.

– Two New Jersey area Big East bottom fodders are looking to move up. Rutgers was able to rack in one McDonalds All-America in talented point guard Mike Rosario. Now it appears they’ve cleared talented big man Gregory Echenique to play for the Scarlet Knights this season. Had he remained in the Class of 2009, it’s likely Echenique would have played in the McDonalds game. Their rival, Seton Hall, received another big-time transfer in former New Mexico State forward Herb Pope to aid a below-average frontline. Pope averaged 11.1 PPG and 6.8 RPG last year. We know Bobby Gonzalez isn’t afraid to reel in low-character players for the sake of winning, and Bobby hopes to gain a waiver for Pope to play this season.

– Levance Fields looks to finally be 100% healthy by November and ready to lead Pitt to a Big East title this season. He received bone graft surgery about a week ago to stabilize his broken left foot, which had been causing him periodic pain over the summer. Fields wanted closure and received surgery. While this will put a hamper on his preparation for the season, Jamie Dixon is fine with having Fields ready for Opening Night. Also on the Big East injury front, David Cubillian may miss the start of the season due to off-season shoulder surgeries.

– I don’t know how reliable this source is, but is reporting that talented class of 2009 guard Abdul Gaddy is down to Arizona and UCLA. Gaddy is ranked as the #2 point guard in the land by and has proven to be an elite backcourt player with enormous upside. Gaddy is somewhat like Derrick Rose in his feel for the game and tremendous passing ability from the point guard position. Why do I have a feeling he ends up at Westwood?

– I’m just as sick of Derrick Caracter as you are. Still, because it’s Division 1 and Conference USA, it’s worth reporting he’s likely to land at Southern Miss. It appeared Caracter was going to land at a NAIA Oklahoma school before Larry Eustachy stepped in and decided to give Caracter a second chance. And if anyone can relate to second chances, it’s Larry Eustachy.

– Andy Katz has a fine write-up on his ESPN blog about Memphis and how much John Calipari is looking forward to the upcoming season, more because he wants to forget about last year’s national championship game than the actual caliber of his players, I would gather. Still, Memphis looks strong. Tyreke Evans joins the fray as their leading scorer and floor leader. Nebraska transfer Roburt Sallie failed to meet Big 12 eligibility standards and instead opted for Memphis. Robert Dozier and Antonio Anderson withdrew from the draft, which helps greatly. Calipari also mentions that Pierre Niles dropped 40 pounds and the lanky Shawn Taggart put on 25 pounds this summer. Calipari also attempts to persuade us the coup of C.J. Henry has nothing to do with Xavier, which is of course complete and utter nonsense.

– Perusing over the Big East conference schedule, here are my top five games:

1. Connecticut at Pittsburgh, March 7
2. Louisville at Notre Dame, February 12
3. Pittsburgh at Louisville, January 17
4. Connecticut at Marquette, February 25
5. Notre Dame at Pittsburgh, January 31

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