Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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

Posts Tagged ‘Kansas Jayhawks’

November 26: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 26, 2008

Syracuse Kansas Basketball

I’m starting to believe this Syracuse team can finish in the top five in the Big East.

Why? Primarily because there’s no way they would have won that overtime thriller against the Kansas Jayhawks last year. In Kansas City with thousands of screaming Rock Chalk diehards. Down double digits in the second half.

This is a new Syracuse team. Not one that folds defensively, makes careless turnovers, has absolutely no depth and won’t make adjustments. Hell, Jim Boeheim even ditched his patented zone defense midway through the second half after the athletic Jayhawks were attacking it with ease (most notably impressive freshman Tyshawn Taylor) and went straight man-to-man, allowing athletic defenders like Paul Harris and Jonny Flynn more leeway to be aggressive.

It appears to me defense would be the only thing holding back this Orange team from finshing in the top five in the loaded Big East, and even in that area I feel they can surely improve to an above-average defensive team in time for March. They have the pieces necessary to patch together a top-15/20 caliber campaign- an intelligent, steady, playmaking, clutch shooting point guard who allows the inconsistent Eric Devendorf to play off the ball in Jonny Flynn, who clearly outplayed the fatigued Sherron Collins late in that game. They have Arinze Onuaku in the post, who has made it clear to me in these two CBE Classic games he can become a star in the Big East. It baffles me why Boeheim doesn’t attempt to keep him more involved in the offense (I think Dickie V pointed this out). He’s also a ferocious rebounder and a superb defender, swatting away two Kansas shots late in the game on one possession and actually bringing me to my feet.

Okay, so the depth isn’t tremendous. Rick Jackson won’t provide much off the pine. But the additions of both Eric Devendorf and Andy Rautins give this Syracuse team an entirely new dimension, spreading the defense and allowing both Flynn and Onuaku more room to work on the outside and inside, respectively. I also saw some encouraging play from freshman forward Kris Joseph in the tournament.

Bottom line: This Syracuse team is much more poised, mature and developed than a season ago when they missed the NCAA Tournament. While the Big East is loaded and I have a difficult time believing they’ll outlast Connecticut, Louisville, Notre Dame or Pittsburgh at the top of the conference, stranger things have happened. Credit Jim Boeheim for avoiding all cupcakes and challenging his Syracuse team to see what they’re made of early in the season. It certainly paid off.

#8 Notre Dame 81, #7 Texas 80: Both of these teams showed Tuesday night in a hotly contested Maui battle that they’re top ten teams. Both entered the game playing phenomenal defense- Notre Dame at 54 PPG and Texas at an even more impressive 46.3 PPG- but both explosive offenses managed to score 80 points in a thriller that Notre Dame almost blew from the free throw line. They held a seemingly comfortable eight point lead with about a minute to go when Tory Jackson, Zach Hillesland and Luke Harangody missed six free throws down the stretch to aid a Texas comeback. A 60-foot desperation heave from A.J. Abrams (who finished just 5/17 from behind the arc and took 27 shots total) hit the front rim in a shot that surely had the entire city of South Bend holding their breath.

Both squads made it fairly clear they belong in the top ten in the nation and could reach the Final Four. Texas received a strong effort from Justin Mason (16 pts, 7/12 FG, 7 reb, 5 asst and an electric dunk), Damion James (11pts, 12reb, 4/10 FG, didn’t force outside jumpers), Gary Johnson (5/11 FG, 10 pts, 8 reb) and Abrams even though he struggled overall from behind the arc. For the Irish, Kyle McAlarney did his thing, hitting five threes and scoring 19 points. Tory Jackson had another solid game (6/12 FG, 16 pts, 7 reb, 5asst, 2 TO) and Harangody finished with 29 points, 13 rebounds and a desperation heave from nearly halfcourt that banked in late in the second half. Mike Brey should be concerned about two things, though: 1) Yeah, Texas is a very potent offensive team, but Notre Dame struggled yet again defensively, 2) they got all of two points from their bench of Nash, Peoples and Zeller.

Curry Held Scoreless: No, Loyola (MD) did not find some 11-foot behemoth with a dinosaur’s wingspan to cover Curry. Coach Jimmy Patsos, the always creative mind who decided to sit in the stands for the second half of his game against Cornell to avoid receiving another technical, decided to employ a plan that seems fairly obvious now that someone has finally thought of it: double-team Stephen Curry. Not your usual double team, though. Loyola literally drapped two defenders on Curry the entire game. For every single Davidson offensive possession, the Wildcats held a 4-to-3 advantage, meaning Andrew Lovedale, Bryant Barr, Aaron Bond and Will Archambault could have career nights. Curry: 0/3 FG, 0/1 3pt, 3 assists, 0 points. For a guy averaging about 35 points per game. Instead of forcing shots through a constant double team, he deferred to teammates. Which brings up the question: Can this guy do anything wrong?

Other Top 25 Action

  • #1 North Carolina advanced to face Notre Dame after smoking Oregon 98-69. Hansbrough scored 16 points on 12/14 FT, making just two shots
  • #4 Pittsburgh took care of a quality Belmont team 74-60. Scary note: DeJuan Blair didn’t play due to inflammation in his right knee
  • #15 Marquette cruised 85-68 over Texas Southern with Jerel McNeal (20 points) and Lazar Hayward (18 and 9) leading the charge
  • #18 Florida barely squeaked by Washington 86-84 with Nick Calathes picking up 21 points and dishing out 8 assists
  • #22 Villanova dominated Monmouth 71-48 behind 18 points and five threes from Corey Stokes and Cunningham (9/17) with another good game

Games of Note: Arizona trailed pretty much the entire game against bottom-feeder WCC squad Santa Clara before pulling out a 69-66 victory in Athens, Georgia with Chase Budinger scoring 22 points; Virginia Commonwealth will need more than Eric Maynor to win the Colonial this season. His final line: 35 points, 6 rebounds, 6 assists, 11/20 FG, 6/12 3pt, 7/9 FT, and besides some solid efforts from Larry Sanders, the depth just isn’t there. They lost a heartbreaker 93-90 in OT at 4-1 East Carolina; Indiana received another drubbing in Maui, losing by 26 to St. Joseph’s and allowing seven threes from Darrin Govins; You know the saying “fool me once, shame on you…fool me twice, shame on me?” Liberty defeated Virginia in Charlottesville 86-82 last night with Seth Curry dropping 26 points and averaging 21/6/4 this season. He’s playing at Liberty. What are these Virginia schools doing?!?!?! If there’s another Curry on the way, RECRUIT HIM; Saint Louis couldn’t build off their BC win and lost to Nebraska by 14 points, allowing the Huskers to shoot nearly 60%; Penn State with a decent win on the road vs. in-state rival Pennsylvania.

News And Notes

Results from the punishments handed down on Indiana yesterday: Kelvin Sampson cannot coach in college for five years and Indiana received three years probation. This program should be slightly rejuvinated by a top ten recruiting class entering Bloomington next season. Be patient, Hoosier fans!

– Troubled Massachusetts guard Doug Wiggins has now been suspended indefinitely by coach Derek Kellogg after an arrest for breaking and entering. The incident occurred off campus in Amherst last weekend and wasn’t the first of such incidents for Wiggins, who left Connecticut over the summer after averaging nearly 7 PPG there as a reserve.

– Devestating news for St. John’s that broke a few days ago: Roger Mason, Jr, the best player on a St. John’s team looking to avoid the cellar in the Big East, tore a tendon in his right foot and will miss the rest of the season. This can’t be a good sign for either Norm Roberts job security or the chances the Johnnies had of avoiding another disappointing season. Mason led the team in scoring last season at 14.0 PPG.

– Some other quick injury news: UCLA dodged a bullet as forward Alfred Aboya’s left wrist appears to be okay and he should play in the Bruins next game; Southern Illinois wasn’t so lucky, losing their center Nick Evans for 4-6 weeks after breaking his wrist in the same game; impressive Xavier freshman guard Terrell Holloway will miss 2-3 weeks of action with a stress fracture in his left foot.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day- Eric Maynor, VCU

On The Tube Today

  • Alabama vs. Saint Joseph’s- 2pm (ESPN2)
  • Texas vs. Oregon- 430pm (ESPN2)
  • Boston College vs. Purdue- 7pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Indiana vs. Chaminade- 7pm (ESPNU)
  • Eastern Washington @ Minnesota- 830pm (BTN)
  • Southern Methodist @ TCU- 830pm (MTN)
  • UAB vs. Oklahoma- 915pm (ESPN2HD)
  • Notre Dame vs. North Carolina- 10pm (ESPN)
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November 25: The Day After

Posted by Zach on November 25, 2008

Kansas Washington Basketball

Recap of Monday night action in the world of college hoops…

Syracuse 89, #18 Florida 83: Early in the season, the Big East is doing nothing to dispell notions of their conference possibly being considered the strongest in the history of college basketball. The first of two in Kansas City certainly wasn’t a tape you’d send to a clinic instructing defense. Both Syracuse and Florida split the opposing zone defense with relative ease for 40 minutes, and other than a few first half Andy Rautins or Nick Calathes threes, most of the baskets were layups and dunks. This was especially the case for Gators big man Alex Tyus, a sophomore with a frame most big men can only dream about. I watched this game intensively primarily because I wanted to become more familiar with Florida and some of their young talent. Suffice to say Tyus athleticism, explosivness near the basket, and ability to find seams in the Cuse defense stood out dramatically. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention how impressive Nick Calathes is as a complete basketball player. 19 points, 7 assists and 4/8 from deep doesn’t tell half the story of how much this super sophomore provides as a floor leader, instinctive and sneaky passer and smooth jump shooter. I also came away impressed with Erving Walker as a speed demon driving to the basket with surprising range on his jumper. If Florida shapes up their defense, they could be a force in a weak SEC.

On the other side, this is a tremendous win for Syracuse to tout on Selection Sunday in case they slide in conference play because Florida will likely pad their record and ranking in the SEC. I took a couple things away from their high-scoring effort tonight: 1) Jonny Flynn doesn’t force anything. He lets the game come to him, finds open teammates, yet can seemingly score at any time when Syracuse desperately needs a hoop. 2) Andy Rautins really carried the Orange in the first half shooting threes. Rautins and Devendorf can give this team a whole new dimension if they develop consistency from outside. 3) Onuaku is a ferocious rebounder (12 in the game, seemed like 22). He snatches anything in his vicinity and grabbed numerous key boards down the stretch. 4) Keep an eye out for Cuse freshman Kris Joseph, a developing forward with a nice mid-range game that has served coach Boeheim well off the bench in their wins over Oakland and now Florida. If Syracuse can shore up the defense, they’ll be a force.

#23 Kansas 73, Washington 54: If anyone had lingering doubts, watching Washington throw up brick after brick tonight in the Sprint Center should have confirmed what a loss to Portland seemed to show: Lorenzo Romar’s squad is not very good. At all. Admittedly, Kansas displayed spirited and aggressive defense all night long with their 2-3 zone completely disrupting impressive freshman Isaiah Thomas and slashing forward Quincy Pondexter, but the jump shooting (29.2%) is hideous for the Huskies. Losing their primary outside shooter in Ryan Appelby certainly looks like a devestating subtraction at this point. When Cole Aldrich shut down Jon Brockman offensively, this team was completely lost. Dentmon, Overton and Gant look more and more like disappointments for Romar, and with expected contender Southern Cal also exposed over the weekend, you might find Tony Bennett’s Washington State Cougars finishing third in the Pac-10 this season behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Kansas played a decent game. Nothing spectacular that leads me to believe they’re a top-15 team, but they certainly showed enormous potential and reason for Jayhawk fans to be extremely excited. Cole Aldrich played a phenomenal game both offensively showing a variety of post moves and a mid-range jumper that somehow finds the bottom of the net even with a funky release, and defensively confusing the usually steady Jon Brockman and providing constant help defense, blocking shots and starting the Kansas break. Aldrich and Marcus Morris forms a great front line for Self to work with. It also appears Sherron Collins has his attitude/work ethic straightened out and he’s ready to lead a young Kansas squad. Tyshawn Taylor is an athletic guard who will compliment Collins nicely in the backcourt. The only concerns should be offensive rebounding (Washington dominated here) and three-point shooting (just 2 of 8).

#2 Connecticut 76, #19 Wisconsin 57: The Badgers love to slow the game down, limit possessions and force their opposition to change their gameplan to fit their ideal tempo. Usually Bo Ryan has no trouble doing so, but this year’s Connecticut Huskies are a totally different animal. Their roster is an endless assembly line of playmakers that forced the Badgers into more of a high-energy contest and even managed to drop 76 points on one of the most stout defenses in the nation. Who would have thought Jerome Dyson, not Price, Thabeet or Adrien, would be the Huskies leading scorer thus far in the 08-09 season? Dyson, along with Adrien down low and the emergence of the soaring freshman Kemba Walker, have been phenomenal thus far. I’d feel confident about my Connecticut pick to win the national title if Hasheem Thabeet wasn’t such an enigma. The only competition for the 7’3 center tonight came from the 6’8 Keaton Nankivil and 6’7 Joe Krabbenhoft, yet Thabeet never demanded the rock on offense and finished with nine points on 2/6 from the field. There’s absolutely no reason for Thabeet to not score 20 points in this matchup, and it shows a lack of aggressiveness that’s concerning if I’m a Connecticut fan. We’ve seen this the last two years with Hasheem, and the developing excuse seems to be wearing off.

Other Top 25 Action

  • #1 North Carolina made mince meat of poor Chaminade 115-70, scoring 67 in the second half behind 26 points from Danny Green
  • #7 Texas pulled away late in Maui and defeated St. Joe’s 68-50 with A.J. Abrams scoring 17 and playing a great point guard
  • #8 Notre Dame earned a second round date with Texas after trouncing Indiana 88-50; Tory Jackson with 21/6/5 on 10/17 FG
  • #21 Miami demolished San Diego in a good win 80-45 even though Jack McClinton only scored nine points and went 1/6 from three
  • #24 Wake Forest’s last two scores: 120-88, 62-31. Think Coach Gaudio worked on defense? Jeff Teague led the way with 14 points
  • #25 Davidson beat Florida Atlantic 76-60. Curry: 39/4/4, 13/21, 5/9, 8/9. Another day at the office.

Other Notes- Cleveland State beats St. Leo by 10 points, Loyola (IL) is demolished by Cornell, Wright State manages 37 points at home and Butler losing everyone leads me to believe this could be a down year in the Horizon League; Massachusetts with the most despicable loss of the night, going down at home to Jacksonville State 75-74. That’ll get the fans riled up for some Minutemen hoops, coach Kellogg! Patrick Patterson scored 28 points and snatched 12 rebounds in a Kentucky rout of Longwood; bad loss for Bradley at home by 12 to UMKC; Georgia has been awful so far this year, winning tonight 54-48 over Santa Clara and trying to cement themselves as the Oregon State of the SEC this season; Ohio State escapes 61-57 over Bowling Green with B.J. Mullens held to two points, lending credence to my earlier article about freshmen struggles early in this campaign; UNLV with a tremendous road win at Conference USA contender UTEP 80-67 with Wink Adams going for 20 points; we thought Oregon State might be on the upswing after contending with Nevada on the road, but they lost by one to Yale tonight at home.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day- Stephen Curry, Davidson (again): 39 points, 13/21 FG, 5/9 3pt, 4 assists, 2 turnovers

On The Tube Today

  • Saint Joseph’s vs. Indiana, 130pm (ESPNU)
  • Chaminade vs. Alabama, 4pm (ESPN2)
  • Texas vs. Notre Dame, 7pm (ESPN)
  • Gardner Webb @ South Carolina, 7pm (ESPN FC)
  • Florida vs. Washington, 745pm (ESPNUHD)
  • Oakland at Kansas State, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Saint Louis at Nebraska, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • Texas Southern at Marquette, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • SE Louisiana at Texas Tech, 8pm (ESPN FC)
  • North Carolina vs. Oregon, 930pm (ESPN)
  • Syracuse vs. Kansas, 10pm (ESPN2HD)

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2008-09 Big 12 Preview

Posted by Zach on November 8, 2008

The Big 12 is becoming more deep, more talented and more balanced every single season. They boast the national champion Kansas Jayhawks, up-and-comers like Baylor and Oklahoma, mainstays atop the standings such as Texas, and perennial dangerous teams Texas Tech, Kansas State, Missouri, Texas A&M and Oklahoma State. It wouldn’t be wise to underestimate Colorado, Iowa State or Nebraska, either. With Kansas losing basically their entire championship roster, it’s time for a new team to emerge. Will it be Texas and A.J. Abrams? Oklahoma and Blake Griffin? Baylor and Curtis Jerrells? Here are my predictions for the 2008-09 season:

1. Oklahoma Sooners: While most preseason prognosticators have the Longhorns notched to the top spot, I’m picking Oklahoma based on three assumptions: 1) I feel like their backcourt of Johnson and Crocker will stay healthy and overachieve, 2) Willie Warren is going to have a major impact, and 3) Blake Griffin could be the best player in the country (hey, he is my preseason player of the year over Hansbrough). None of these expectations are out of the realm of possibility, and I may even argue they all have a high probability of happening.

Backcourt:
Point guard Austin Johnson isn’t the type of player to wow anyone with his pure skills, but he’s a solid point guard and court anchor for coach Jeff Capel. He finished with near a 2:1 assist to turnover ratio last season, can drain a clutch three-pointer, and also led the team in minutes played per game. The drop in FT% from 93% to 73% is concerning, yet I feel that is more fluke than reality. Fellow backcourt mate Tony Crocker is a double digit scorer with one of the deadliest shots from behind the arc. Crocker shot 42% overall from three last year, but in Sooner wins he shot a stunning 52%. If he can improve on reducing the turnovers and become more of a complete guard, it’ll be awfully difficult to defend Tony Crocker this season. Completing Jeff Capel’s three guard lineup is freshman sensation Willie Warren, a dynamic scorer who may be Oklahoma’s top recruit in the program’s history. Warren has an outstanding mid-range jumper and exceptional athleticism, but Warren must learn to transition from the high school game where he dominated every night scoring-wise to more of a team-oriented passer and rebounder for the Sooners. Coach Capel believes he can, and Warren even predicted he’d average eight assists per game this season.

Frontcourt:
The Griffin brothers. More famous than the Jonas Brothers? Probably not, but they play a decent game of basketball. Most would imagine Taylor Griffin may become slightly jealous of his younger brother, but the modest Taylor remains Blake’s biggest fan. He embraces his role as the team’s prototypical glue player, a guy never afraid to dive on the floor for a loose ball or snag the key offensive rebound. With the loss of Longar Longar, Griffin’s 4.9 RPG must improve for Oklahoma. Capel wants Taylor to play with “reckless abandon” this season in the paint. The more touted of the siblings is All-American brother Blake Griffin, the player that truly transformed the atmosphere around Oklahoma basketball. As a freshman, Blake showed the skills to average nearly 15 PPG and just over 9 RPG including a 57% mark from the field. Those stats don’t tell the entire story; Griffin really improved during Big 12 play and against the best forwards in the nation. If he can improve defensively, he’ll be the best player in college basketball and likely the #1 pick in the NBA Draft. Blake’s in the best shape of his life and ready to win a national title first.

Bottom Line: The Sooners have an experienced and tested backcourt with a little Willie Warren mixed in. They also have a duo in the frontcourt that does everything to win. Their bench is useful with JC transfer Juan Pattillo and senior Omar Leary. Coach Jeff Capel has done a tremendous job with this Oklahoma program, but with Warren a possible one-and-done and Griffin surely entering the draft, this may be his one year to shine in the near future. Look for him to take advantage.

2. Texas Longhorns:
When I rank Oklahoma number one, don’t think that’s a slap in the face to the most underrated coach in the nation, Rick Barnes, and this Texas Longhorns squad. I just think very highly of the Sooners upside. Texas and Oklahoma will be neck-and-neck all through January and February battling for that conference banner much like Texas and Kansas did last season.

Backcourt: A.J. Abrams was told by NBA scouts after testing the draft waters that they viewed the 5’11 dynamo as more of a point guard than a shooting guard. Well, it appears like Rick Barnes agrees, and Abrams will be playing mostly the 1-spot this season. Abrams led the Big 12 in three-pointers made en route to a 16.5 PPG average in a season in which he made second team all-Big 12. Why does Barnes believe Abrams can play the point guard with flourishing success? How about only 31 turnovers total last year. The biggest knock on Texas heading into the season is whether they can find a dependable floor leader, but A.J. Abrams certainly fits that bill and he should have Texas competing for a #2 seed. Also in the mix will be Turkish guard Dogus Balbay, who played for the U20 Turkey club and led the team in assists per game over the summer. Justin Mason is Texas’s glue guy- a defensive mastermind who flies around the court and plays like the ultimate competitor he is. Mason only boasts average all-around offensive skills, but makes up for his weaknesses with effort and athleticism.



Frontcourt:
Damion James is more of a perimeter-oriented forward that finished second in the conference in RPG last season with 10.3 per game. How is that possible? Watch James play on a consistent basis and you’ll find out: it seems like this athletic forward is about 15 different places on the court at one time. He’s truly a complete player, someone that can step back and drain a clutch three-pointer (41%) or lock down the other team’s top scoring wing on the other end of the floor. Seemingly his only true weakness is at the free throw line. Gary Johnson is the player that can turn Texas into an elite team. The 6’6 sophomore has finally recovered fully from a scary heart condition and the athletic forward should finally be able to see the floor on a consistent basis for Rick Barnes. When Texas is playing on all cylinders, center Connor Atchley is leading the charge. The breakout player from last year, a season in which he averaged nearly 10 PPG, shot 54% overall and blocked 80 shots,  Atchley is looking to become one of the most feared postmen in the Big 12. Dexter Pittman is another wild card. He’s lost over 75 pounds since coming to Austin and still weighs around 315 pounds. When he’s able to play prolonged minutes, Pittman is a ferocious rebounder and a capable post scorer.

Bottom Line:
Much like Oklahoma, Texas has plenty of question marks. Can Abrams run the point? Can Dexter Pittman contribute? Is Gary Johnson finally healthy? If most of these questions play to Rick Barnes’ favor, they should win another Big 12 title. They preach stout defense and can shoot from outside- a recipe for another successful year in Austin.

3. Baylor Bears: The rebuilding project of all rebuilding projects is finally crystallizing into something special for the Baylor Bears and head coach Scott Drew. Last season, Baylor was the last team admitted to the NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday after winning 21 games and 9 conference contests. But that doesn’t tell the whole story: nine of the team’s 11 losses were by 10 points or less. That means Baylor won 21 games and was still unlucky last season. That bodes well for 2008-09 and the four returning starters.

Backcourt: The leading scorer in the history of United States high school basketball- Tweety Carter- will start at point guard for Baylor in his junior season. Carter isn’t a polished point guard by any means, but the quick tempo that coach Drew instills means half-court sets are a rarity, and Carter can do what he does best: score the basketball. He shot 43% from the floor last season, a good number for a 5’11 combo guard. Curtin Jerrells is the backcourt star, a 13.6 PPG scorer who should explode in his senior season. Someone with his pure talent could have bolted after Baylor was littered with punishments (including a year of zero non-conference games) but Jerrells stayed loyal and that decision is bearing fruit. He led the Bears in scoring- he’s led Baylor in scoring all three years- assists, minutes, field goals and free throws, finished second in three-pointers and earned a spot on the all-Big 12 squad. Sophomore LaceDarius Dunn may come off the bench like he did much of last season and provide coach Drew with an excellent shooter from outside and the free throw stripe. If Dunn can mold into a more fundamentally sound player on defense, he’ll be a national star by his junior season. Henry Dugat is yet another double-digit scorer who’s also Baylor’s top returning defender and is the opposite of Dunn- a complete and consistent player who simply contributes where he can.

Frontcourt: Kevin Rogers is the post anchor for Baylor. His numbers- 12.3 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 50% FG, 77% FT- are all extremely solid. It’s a luxury for Drew to have a consistent player like Rogers to depend on if the Bears need a basket inside. He notched 18 boards last year vs. tournament team Texas A&M and is an outside contender to average a double-double this season. The center position is much more of a question mark, meaning it’s entirely possible Drew goes with four guards and Rogers for the majority of the time. The 7 foot Josh Lomers started 24 games last year and shot 61% from the floor, using his size and strength to dominate for easy baskets in the post. Anthony Jones is a 6’10 freshman that should see major minutes. The lanky forward was ranked in the top-50 nationally in most recruiting magazines and should provide Drew with advanced defense and another scoring option. Quincy Acy is another freshman who may make an impact. Credit Drew with assembling recruits where he was clearly short-manned this season.



Bottom Line:
The job this program has done through epic trials and tribulations to make the NCAA Tournament last season and hopefully contend for the Big 12 title this year is truly remarkable. They’ll be a national favorite and deservedly so. The talent assembled could reach unimagined heights four years ago with Dunn, Jerrells, Rogers and Dugat leading the charge. Watch out for the rejuvenated Bears.

4. Kansas Jayhawks:
As the national championship banner rose to the rafters a couple Friday’s ago in Lawrence, only two contributors from that squad actually remained: Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich. Gone is hero Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush, Russell Robinson, Darrell Arthur and Sasha Kaun. Luckily for coach Bill Self, who finally tore that postseason monkey off his back, he’s recruited a top-flight class to keep Kansas in contention.

Backcourt: Sherron Collins needs to develop into one of the top point guards in the nation for Kansas to compete for a conference championship. Whether Collins is fully motivated and can get his weight and conditioning under control are two question marks that Bill Self hopes to answer in the affirmative. With the youth assembled on this Kansas team, Self needs Collins to be a leader more than anything, because we know the talented Chicago guard can score and distribute. Whether Collins can answer that call and become the face of the Kansas program is undetermined. Freshman Tyshawn Taylor, a former Crean recruit at Marquette, looks to be the second starting guard, but who really knows at this point. Taylor led St. Anthony’s to a 32-0 record and can really play the point guard position for someone his age, much like Kemba Walker at Connecticut. Mario Little could be Kansas’s top player by the end of the campaign. The top JUCO player in the nation shot 55% from the floor and 40% from three as a wing player. Freshman Travis Releford is an excellent defender and should play the role of knocking down a clutch three-pointer.

Frontcourt:
The Morris twins, Marcus and Markieff, are the gems of the incoming recruiting class. Marcus is a versatile forward who can handle the rock both inside and outside.  He’s made outstanding improvements both defensively and rebounding the basketball in his last year, two areas where Self needs Marcus to contribute this season. Twin brother Markieff is much like Marcus in that he’s a versatile post player who can step outside and drive to the hoop. He’ll likely start off on the bench and give Self another defender and rebounding option. The most improved player in the nation this year could be center Cole Aldrich. He wasn’t able to see many minutes due to the frontcourt logjam for Kansas last year. Now he’s the starting center and ready to shine. Aldrich is a shot-blocker who could also led the Jayhawks in scoring and rebounding in his sophomore campaign. We saw glimpses of his potential against North Carolina in the national semifinal when he contributed with eight points and four blocks.

Bottom Line:
It’s going to be a rebuilding year in Lawrence, and it’s probably a good sign that a rebuilding year means a likely winning record in conference and an NCAA Tournament selection nonetheless. The freshman talent is certainly assembled, they’ve lured two outstanding JUCO players, and Aldrich and Collins are two players who could really make the leap. Kansas will be right in the mix as always.

5. Texas A&M Aggies: Coach Mark Turgeon should have another competitive team in College Station. Three-point shooter extraordinaire Josh Carter returns, a 6’7 swingman who shot 50% from three as a sophomore to lead the nation and “fell off” to 38% last season. Donald Sloan went through rough times replacing Acie Law at point guard, but improved mightily in the second half of the year cutting down on turnovers and turning into a team leader. His jump shot still needs improvement. Forward Bryan Davis also improved as the season wore on for the Aggies, averaging 9.2 PPG and 5.2 RPG during conference play. He’s also A&M’s strongest post defender and shot blocker. Junior Derrick Roland should see minutes as a role player. Two freshmen will contribute immediately: Dashan Harris and David Loubeau. Harris is a 6’0 scoring point guard who’s ranked #70 by Scout.com nationally, and Loubeau, who averaged a stunning 29 and 17 as a senior, chose Texas A&M over UCLA and Pittsburgh.



6. Oklahoma State Cowboys:
New coach Travis Ford leads a backcourt-oriented Cowboys team into battle. Byron Eaton averaged 20.6 PPG during the Cowboys’ late winning streak in February and March, and with his weight under wraps, Ford expects Eaton to become a top point guard in the nation this season. He should bloom under Ford’s freer offense rather than the strict Sutton rules. I’m more excited about sophomore James Anderson and his potential. A future NBA talent, Anderson led Oklahoma State in three-pointers last season as a freshman and averaged 13.3 PPG. His numbers dipped mightily in conference play, though. Anderson will need to play a full season of top-notch basketball for the Cowboys to contend. Terrel Harris is another double-digit scoring returnee in the backcourt. Harris will need to improve on his dismal 27% from behind the arc. He’s a better shooter than that number indicates. Junior Obi Muonelo will need to step up in a thin frontcourt and provide OSU with more rebounding and toughness than he did last year. 6’11 sophomore Ibrahima Thomas and senior Anthony Brown need to play more in the post or Oklahoma State will be out-rebounded on a nightly basis.

7. Missouri Tigers:
Coach Mike Anderson would love to play more of a fast-paced offense, but his two best players are both over 6’8: DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons. Carroll, a former Vandy transfer, emerged as the do-everything forward for Missouri, leading the team in rebounding, points, free throws made, steals and blocked shots. His two weaknesses are committing stupid fouls and struggles at the free throw line. Lyons really emerged in the second half of Missouri’s season, culminating in 27 points and 18 rebounds against Oklahoma State in February. Lyons can certainly score and rebound, and he may even prove to be an all-Big 12 type player if his defense continues to improve. 6’9 JUCO transfer Keith Ramsey will also contribute in the frontcourt. The loss of Keon Lawrence to Seton Hall could be crushing blow in what would have been a stellar backcourt that’s now just average. 6’7 senior Matt Lawrence is an outstanding jump shooter and 6’3 junior J.T. Tiller is a dependable point guard and defensive stopper. 6’2 freshman Marcus Denmon will also see plenty of minutes.

8. Kansas State Wildcats:
Losing Michael Beasley and Bill Walker certainly stings. The only returning starter is Jacob Pullen, who finished third in scoring behind the dynamic freshman duo last season. He’s a smart ball-handler with shooting skills and made a mark with his 20 points in the epic win over Kansas. Sophomore Fred Brown should start at the other guard. He shot the three well at 37%, but has plenty of development to do before he’s a reliable contributor. Ron Anderson and Dominique Sutton should anchor the frontcourt. Anderson is a ferocious rebounder who shot 55% from the field a year ago in limited time. Sutton is also a strong rebounder who needs to become more of a scoring presence. Miami transfer Denis Clemente will help right away as a scoring combo guard. While this is a rebuilding year in Manhattan, coach Frank Martin has a great freshman class in line for next season.

9. Texas Tech Red Raiders
10. Nebraska Cornhuskers
11. Iowa State Cyclones
12. Colorado Buffaloes

Big 12 First Team
G- Sherron Collins, Kansas
G- A.J. Abrams, Texas
G- Curtis Jerrells, Baylor
F- Damion James, Texas
F- Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Freshman of the Year:
Willie Warren, Oklahoma
Newcomer of the Year: Mario Little, Kansas
Coach of the Year:
Jeff Capel, Oklahoma and Scott Drew, Baylor
Player of the Year: Blake Griffin, Oklahoma

Posted in Big 12 Report, Conference Previews | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

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 BruinsReportOnline.com 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 Scout.com 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

Posted in News And Notes | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Summer Big 12 Report

Posted by Patrick on August 23, 2008

As we try to kill time during this long break in college basketball action, it’s time to preview another major conference. Recently the Big 12 has featured some of the best freshman in the league i.e. Kevin Durant, Michael Beasley, Blake Griffin, etc. and this conference has also had its success in the tournament. Most notably, Kansas took home the title last season. It will be interesting to see if the Big 12 will be represented in the Final Four. The last time they had one in (before Kansas) was Oklahoma State in 2004, but I’m not expecting another drought as long as four years. This season is also very intriguing because there is no clear-cut favorite to win the conference. Some may say there as many as four teams that have a legitimate shot at the crown.

Baylor- Scott Drew did a heck of a job getting this program back on the right track after being suspended from non-conference play just two seasons ago. Drew is figuring out that Texas is a great state to recruit in, and I think soon you may be seeing Baylor steal some of the big programs’ recruits (A&M and UT). As for this year’s team, they really didn’t lose a lot of talent and are returning most of their key starters. Leading scorer Curtis Jerrells will attempt to lead this team to the NCAA tournament with a great supporting cast in guards Henry Dugat and LaceDarius Dunn. Kevin Rogers is really the only guy that can make noise in the frontcourt for the Bears so I wouldn’t be surprised if they used key reserve Tweety Carter as a starter in a four guard lineup. This team’s strengths will be speed and the ability to put the ball in the bucket, but the weaknesses definitely lie in size and rebounding.

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Colorado- If I said things were going to get better in Colorado I would definitely question my own credibility; the Buffaloes are coming off a 3-13 finish in the conference putting them in last place once again. This season might be even worse because their three top scorers all graduated (Marcus Hall and Richard Roby are signed with NBA teams). Sophomore Cory Higgins will lead the backcourt while Jermyl Jackson-Wilson will be their best threat at the forward position, but it really doesn’t look good for CU basketball fans in 2008.

Iowa State- Once again here is a team that lately has not been any kind of factor in the Big 12, and like Colorado it doesn’t look like the tables will be turning this season. The top four scorers are gone and there are only three seniors on this year’s team. Diante Garrett (6.3 PPG and 2.8 APG last year as a freshman) will be the Cyclones best player, followed by seniors Bryan Peterson and Sean Haluska. Dominique Buckley could make a big impact as a freshman in ’08, but it doesn’t look like this team will be getting back to any postseason tournament any time soon.

Kansas- This is easily the team that lost the most key players for this upcoming season; however, Bill Self will still have himself a pretty quality basketball team. Sherron Collins will lead the Jayhawks at point and try to get the ball to a pair of freshman forwards, twin brothers Marcus and Markief Morris (if eligible). Cole Aldrich will also be a very solid contributor to this offense, but I don’t see Kansas getting anywhere close to where they finished last season. A Sweet Sixteen isn’t impossible, though. If the Jayhawks get one more guard to step it up, they could catch some teams sleeping in the Big 12.

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Kansas State- Kansas State is another team that probably won’t have success like they did last season because of the loss of key players such as Michael Beasley and Bill Walker. Sophomore Jacob Pullen will lead along with fellow sophomore guard Fred Brown. It’s likely the Wildcats will go through a lot of growing pains this season, but they could be back on the radar for a Big 12 championship in 2009.

Missouri- This is probably one of the only teams in this conference that has improved since last season. Senior forwards DeMarre Carroll and Leo Lyons (26.1 PPG and 12.4 RPG combined last season) will be the duo that will determine the success of the Tigers on offense and defense. Key contributors include J.T. Tiller and freshman Miguel Paul and Steve Moore. The Tigers can definitely be a surprise team in the Big 12 for this upcoming season, and I wouldn’t be surprised with a top five finish. In order to make the NCAA tournament, they are going to need consistent play from their support players.

Nebraska- The Cornhuskers are a trendy pick to surprise in 2008, especially when people saw what they could do after beating Oregon at home last season. If Nebraska continues to have success it could be scary for other teams because their great facilities provide a great recruiting edge. As or this year, guards Steve Harley and Ade Dagunduro will be the prime offensive threats. Cookie Miller (one of the best names in basketball) and Ryan Anderson will also be key contributors and need to play well behind the two guards in order for this team to live up to rare expectations, especially in year where they can make noise in the Big 12.

Oklahoma- Obviously Blake Griffin will be the one that is leading this team all season, and he might just be good enough to carry the Sooners all the way to a deep NCAA tournament run. Guards Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson will be the outside threats in Oklahoma’s offense, and both have a key role: spread the floor to open up plays for Griffin on the inside. Freshman phenom Willie Warren will probably get starting time right out of the gate (ranked as the #3 SG in the nation). The Sooners toughest non-conference test will come in the Preseason NIT where they will have to beat Davidson to advance to New York to meet the likes of Purdue, Arizona, and Boston College (two of those three).

Oklahoma State- The Cowboys could definitely be a dark horse candidate in the Big 12, especially because their top three scorers are back for this season. Sophomore James Anderson, senior Byron Eaton, and senior Terrel Harris (just deemed eligible) averaged 35.3 PPG and 11.2 RPG. Former UMass coach Travis Ford took the Oklahoma State job for this season, and he is being handsomely paid to do so with his $9.1 million contract.  The only inside threat that the Cowboys have is Ibrahima Thomas. They’ll surely be trying to shoot more threes because their outside attack is formidable.

Texas A&M- Mark Turgeon’s first year at Texas A&M was filled with ups and downs. The Aggies struggled on the road in conference play, but they showed what they’re team was capable of in the NCAA Tournament when they lost a nailbiter to UCLA. Star freshman DeAndre Jordan entered the draft, and they also lose some good scorers. However, the “Big Three” are back in leading scorer and NBA prospect Josh Carter, Bryan Davis who will be really the only experienced force on the inside, and point guard Donald Sloan. The Aggies will once again be a force in the Big 12, but in order to compete for a title they need to play consistently all season long.

Texas- If this team still had D.J. Augustin, they would probably be ranked #2 in the nation behind the Tar Heels. Augustin entered the draft and it’s tough to say if Texas is even a Top 15 team. A.J. Abrams will be taking over the leadership role for Texas, but many don’t have faith in Abrams because of his unreliable play down the stretch last season. Damion James is probably UT’s best player, and a big reason for why they upset UCLA early last year. If Abrams steps it up and James can bring it like he did last season, Texas has all the surrounding pieces to win a Big 12 title.

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Texas Tech- The Pat Knight reign begins in Red Raider land, and it will be interesting to see how the fans react if the team isn’t up to par. However, I don’t think Knight will have to worry about having a bad team. He returns Mike Singletary, who was a strong forward last season, and outside threat Alan Voskuil. The loss of scoring leader Martin Zeno will probably affect this team. Look for someone else to step up and take over the scoring load.

Projected Finish (Postseason Tournament)

1. Texas (NCAA)

2. Oklahoma (NCAA)

3. Baylor (NCAA)

4. Kansas (NCAA)

5. Texas A&M (NCAA)

6. Oklahoma State (NIT)

7. Missouri (NIT)

8. Texas Tech (CBI)

9. Nebraska (CBI)

10. Kansas State (none)

11. Iowa State (none)

12. Colorado (none)

Posted in Big 12 Report | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Wednesday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on August 13, 2008

Time for a Wednesday edition of News and Notes before Pat and I head out to DC for a week (don‘t expect any candid John Thompson III interviews, we apologize in advance)…

– Some news that flew way under the radar was the confirmed ineligibility of Patrick Beverley from the Arkansas basketball team this past week. While Arkansas’s NCAA hopes and chances to contend in the SEC West were slim anyway, losing your best player is a crushing blow for coach John Pelphrey. Beverley will now decide whether to transfer to another school in hopes of gaining another year of eligibility or turn professional and play overseas. He led the Razorbacks in scoring (12.1) and rebounding (6.6) last season in their march to the NCAA tournament second round in Pelphrey’s first season at the helm. The former SEC newcomer of the year was hoping to get his life back on track in time for a productive season, but it appears any future accomplishments for Beverley on the court won’t happen in Fayetteville.

– Updates on three players attempting to gain eligibility this season:

1. Augustus Gilchrist, USF
– Coach Stan Heath may get word by the end of this week whether the 6’8 Maryland transfer can suit up for the Bulls this season. He’d be a big help to a team that lost Kentrell Gransberry and is in need of scoring and rebounding to stay competitive in the Big East. Gilchrist is a complicated story: he enrolled at Virginia Tech, rescinded and committed to Maryland, enrolled for the second semester there, then transferred to South Florida. Gilchrist, much like Vernon Macklin received with his transfer to Florida State, is hoping for a waiver to allow him to play this season due to family issues.

2. Mike Cook, Pittsburgh
– Pitt coach Jamie Dixon has to be getting frustrated with the NCAA for their lack of progression on the status of the valuable Cook this season. Cook tore his ACL in the classic Duke game last December and is hoping for a sixth year of eligibility. Cook’s appeal could go into the second semester and really drag on through the year. Recovering from that ACL tear, Cook still hasn’t been able to participate in 5-on-5 drills.

3. Keon Lawrence, Seton Hall
– Much like Gilchrist, Lawrence is aiming at acquiring a waiver that will allow him to play for the Pirates this season due to family issues. Lawrence transferred from Missouri to Seton Hall to be closer to his family because of their “serious medical issues,” according to an advisor to Lawrence. Lawrence hails from Newark and his addition would take pressure off Eugene Harvey and Jordan Theodore in the backcourt.

– Jim Calhoun is just starting to return to his normal coaching routine and preparation for this season after a bout with skin cancer this summer. He had surgery May 6 to remove a lump in his salivary gland and, after stressful and painful chemotherapy, is finally returning to 100% and is excited about his team’s potential. And why not? With stars like Jeff Adrien, Hasheem Thabeet, A.J. Price, Jerome Dyson and Kemba Walker, the Huskies could have a tremendous season. The coach told Andy Katz he feels Nate Miles is going to explode onto the scene with the talent around him. Calhoun will take two more weeks to relax before school starts.

– Mario Chalmers’ tenure at Kansas is complete, concluding with one of the most famous shots in NCAA tournament history. Now the director of basketball operations for the Jayhawks is resigning. What’s the connection? The director is none other than the father of Mario Chalmers, Ronnie Chalmers. The package deal worked out pretty well for Coach Self, wouldn’t you say? Ronnie was probably hired just for the commitment of his son, Mario. Now you’re seeing the same thing happen with Baylor hiring prized recruit John Wall’s coach to the same position with the Bears. The NCAA may need to step in and try to prevent this pattern from re-occurring, but there’s not much they can really do.

– This news is a week old or so, but Kansas coach Bill Self signed a new 10 year, $30 million deal to stay in Lawrence after flirting with the Oklahoma State job this April. The accepted deal has been in the works since then and includes big raises for his coaching staff. Self was one Jason Richards three away from being labeled as a perennial tournament choker with talented Kansas teams, but advanced to the Final Four and won his first national title in defeating Memphis. Self is now up there with Billy Donovan and Tom Crean as the highest paid college basketball coaches.

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Title Participants Eye New Season

Posted by Zach on August 4, 2008

April 7, 2008. Kansas vs. Memphis. The national title on the line.

All year we heard about Memphis’ free throw shooting woes. Few denied the Tigers possessed the talent to cut down the nets in San Antonio, but the majority picked UCLA or North Carolina or Kansas to finish on top for one distinct reason: Memphis was completely unreliable from the charity stripe, and this giant Achilles heel would rear its ugly head at the worst possible time. The Tigers shot 61% from the line on the season, with Rose at just 71%, Anderson at 57%, Dozier at 68% and Dorsey at 38%. They sprinted past Texas in the regional final, edged UCLA in the national semifinal, and saw their national title hopes within reach when a miracle fall-away Derrick Rose three somehow found the bottom of the net. The free throws? Never a problem.

I lived through the agonizing pain that followed as someone who would have benefited greatly money-wise had Memphis won the national title. While most in my pool opted for UCLA and North Carolina, I figured the only way to keep myself alive in case of a devastating first two rounds would be to take a more unpopular team, risking blowing my entire bracket for the small shot at glory. I picked all four #1 seeds to make the Final Four and it happened. I picked a Memphis-Kansas final and it happened. Yet with Memphis holding a close lead in the final minutes, the free throws began rimming out. And another. And another. Soon enough, a Chalmers three sent the game to overtime and instead of enjoying an all-time college basketball classic, I sat with my head in my hands completely stunned.

John Calipari, one of the more intense and spirited coaches in all of college hoops, probably needed a few weeks of alone time after that epic contest. Calipari reached high grounds with Massachusetts in the 90s and flirted with national titles in previous years with Memphis, but for someone as devoted as Calipari, the sting of losing the 2008 title wouldn’t go away quickly. Receiving a commitment from the top point guard in the nation Tyreke Evans healed some wounds. Losing team leaders Chris Douglas-Roberts, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey to the NBA won’t be easy. How Calipari handles the Year After will be the most stern test of his coaching career.

On the other end of the spectrum, Kansas, one of the most historic and celebrated programs in all of college basketball, will play this season as defending national champions. Bill Self got the monkey off of his back by squeaking out a win over Davidson, topping favorite North Carolina with a thrilling start and finish, and orchestrated the unbelievable comeback vs. Memphis. He watched his top players- Darrell Arthur, Mario Chalmers, Darnell Jackson, Sasha Kaun, Brandon Rush- all depart for the NBA or Europe. They restocked with a solid recruiting class and hopefully Self will enjoy the small grace period at Kansas before the pressure cooker heats up again in Lawrence.

Both Memphis and Kansas will enter the 2008-09 campaign with fresh faces and a new look. No longer will Derrick Rose be the sparkplug in the Tigers backcourt, and no longer will Mario Chalmers and Russell Robinson be solid and reliable presences in the Jayhawks backcourt. Chicago native Sherron Collins will shoulder much of the load, a near double-digit scorer from last season with a strong inside-outside game and good instincts who will likely lead Kansas in scoring. Freshmen and Marquette defection Tyshawn Taylor and all-around athlete Travis Releford will aid Collins. The Memphis show will be run by freshman Tyreke Evans, a special scorer and excellent finisher who can be Derrick Rose Lite with a better jump shot but worse court vision. Antonio Anderson’s three point range and contributions from Willie Kemp will take some pressure off Evans to be The Man at all times.

The frontcourt for Bill Self will be a question mark and depends primarily on the development of 6’11 big man Cole Aldrich, a strong finisher and rebounding presence who showed signs of breaking out against North Carolina in the national semifinal. Self loaded up in the recruiting class with bulk up front, reeling in three 4-star players at the small and power forward positions. Memphis will find its strength up front: lanky Robert Dozier returns, junior Shawn Taggart is back and could help scoring-wise in a big way, and Calipari loaded the frontcourt with freshmen Angel Garcia, Wesley Witherspoon and Matt Simpkins.

Both Memphis and Kansas, teams with storied programs and high expectations, hope to return to the Final Four again this season. While more realistic expectations see Memphis as a top-20 team who will storm through Conference USA and receive a high seed in the tournament while Kansas is experiencing a rebuilding/reloading season, both of these teams will be back at the top soon enough, with Memphis looking for revenge and Kansas looking for a return to glory.

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Look Ahead To The 2009 Class

Posted by Zach on July 2, 2008

Pat covered the best of the best in the Class of 2008 rankings. Today, I thought I’d tackle the early developments for the class of 2009 in this lull period in college basketball (late June after the draft to the end of the summer can often be brutal). There’s been some new signings in the last few days out of the Arizona front and, even though the top three prospects in the class have not committed this early, four of the top 15 have verballed to their school of choice.  While it’s quite early to tell, it appears the strength of the 2009 class hails from the South: Atlanta, Raleigh, Round Rock, Oklahoma City, Mobile, Roswell, etc.

Here’s a brief summation on how the 2009 recruiting rampage has played out thus far:

North Carolina is turning into an all-time recruiting machine– Roy Williams coaches at a storied program with a long history, passionate fans, and a winning tradition since he arrived on campus. So why shouldn’t he completely reload once his fabled class of 2005 and 06 departs? Williams has already been able to lure in four top 60 recruits and the 08-09 season hasn’t even begun yet. John Henson, ranked #4 overall and the top power forward, is an athletic Brandan Wright-type who Williams managed to scoop out of Texas. He received verbals from the Wear twins from California, because 6’9 225 at the power forward spot is always beneficial. He’s also been able to get the #12 and #26 ranked players in the nation, guards Dexter Strickland from New Jersey as their next big-time scorer, and Leslie McDonald from Memphis, respectively. Talk about spanning the country for top dogs.

Mike Davis making his mark
– When UAB hired Mike Davis as his job-after following the painful dismissal from Indiana, they knew they were getting a coach who could recruit. Davis showed his muscle by reeling in the number two center in the nation, DeMarcus Cousins, from Mobile, to play in Conference USA, rather than receive more attention at a school like Indiana, Kentucky or Memphis. Of course, if we’ve learned anything from Memphis, it’s that Conference USA schools can receive plenty of attention if they build a winning atmosphere under a respected coach. And contend for an undefeated mark annually.

Bill Self looking to build another national champion in three years
– The Jayhawks are in contention for the #2 and #6 players in the 2009 class. By having both commit, they’d be the first team since UNC with Lawson and Ellington to receive multiple top-6 players. Wingman Xavier Henry is the #1 SG in the class, a player with an extremely versatile game- a plus long range jumper and excellent slashing ability. His father also played at KU. They’re battling for Henry with Memphis and North Carolina. Also being recruited heavily by Self is Lance Stephenson, a 6’5 SF from Sebastian Telfair’s high school in Brooklyn. Kentucky is also making a stronger push for Stephenson, and I’m surprised Pitino isn’t involved.

New Big East recruiting power emerges– Villanova head coach Jay Wright has been absolutely tremendous recruiting two outstanding players in the 2009 class. Just recently, Wright received a commitment from talented forward Isaiah Armwood from Rockville, a creative and versatile post player from Maryland who has been playing with the Baltimore Stars. He also got his point guard of the future from Philly. Maalik Wayns can even be better than Scottie Reynolds as a pure PG with excellent court vision and passing ability.

Some stunners– It’s not just the Connecticut’s, North Carolina’s and Duke’s of the world getting all of the best players (well mostly). Akron has a commitment from the #7 center in the nation, Zeke Marshall. San Diego, an up-and-coming program, reeled in the #12 center in the nation, Vander Joaquim. Also, Oklahoma, Baylor, Illinois, Marquette, and especially Clemson, are putting together excellent classes.

Did Duke finally get its big man?– Duke’s main Achilles heel the last few empty years have been due to a lack of a strong, reliable inside presence (and don’t give me Josh McRoberts). 6’11, 210 center Mason Plumlee from Arden, NC has been able to exert himself offensively in the paint with much more frequency, coupling that with an advanced mid-range game. Or he could be another McRoberts.

Predictions: Derrick Favors goes to Georgia Tech, Xavier Henry heads to Kansas, John Wall goes to Kentucky, Renardo Sidney heads to Texas, Lance Stephenson to Memphis, Kenny Boynton to Florida, Abdul Gaddy plays for Arizona, and Daniel Orton goes to Ohio State to round out the top ten.

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The Top 10 Recruiting Classes For 2008

Posted by Patrick on June 30, 2008

“Rebuilding Year” is a phrase that Ben Howland never utters, and why would you need to when you coach the most storied program in college basketball? In this day and age, finding freshman to fill starting spots is a lot easier than it used to be. For 2008, UCLA got five tremendous recruits, which is why UCLA is number one on my list of the best recruiting classes for 2008.

Recruits:

(“Stars” are equal to Scout.com’s player rankings)

SG-Jrue Holiday (5 star recruit, No.1 SG)- This kid is a winner. He isn’t on the court to showboat his skills to eventually garner himself a higher pick in the draft. On top of that he can score at will, although he isn’t the greatest three point shooter. Holiday can get to the rim and post double digit points every night.

C-J’Mison Morgan (5 star recruit, No.3 C)-This guy kind of reminds me of Dan Gadzuric (another UCLA standout), neither were very athletic and can’t pass, but they can finish around the rim and they have great hands for catching the ball in the post. Morgan can be a top center in college basketball, but I don’t think he will be next season.

PF-Drew Gordon (4 star recruit, No.15 PF)- Gordon is at UCLA to rebound, and rebounding is what he will do.  This kid is all about the dirty work: blocking shots, getting offensive rebounds, and just all out hustling. If he can improve his scoring, he has the athleticism to be an All-Pac 10 selection.

SG-Malcolm Lee (4 star recruit, No.7 SG)- This guy reminds me of Austin Daye from Gonzaga, he has tremendous upside but he needs a little work on strength before he can take that next step to being a big time player. At 6’4” 165 pounds, it would be nice to see him gain some muscle. Other than that he has a pretty good stroke from behind the arc.

PG- Jerime Anderson (4 star recruit, No.3 PG)- Once again I am going to compare a UCLA recruit to a current Gonzaga player; Jeremy Pargo. Anderson has the natural ability to get to the bucket but his passing and perimeter shots aren’t great. I think a year to be the understudy behind Collison is what this kid needs and in the future he can be the guy you want with the ball late in the game.
Like UCLA, here is a team that lost a lot of players to the draft and graduation. Memphis had a lot of holes to fill and they did it nicely. John Calipari did his best job getting the late commitment from Tyreke Evans, who helped make this class number two on my list.

Recruits:

SG-Tyreke Evans (5 star recruit, No.2 SG)- Evans is all about using his athleticism to score, and when you watch him this year you may see comparisons to Kobe Bryant.  He can shoot it from three, and he can create for himself. There isn’t any reason Evans can’t be an All-American in his first NCAA season.

SF-Wesley Witherspoon (4 star recruit, No.13 SF)- Another late addition to the Memphis recruiting class, Witherspoon will probably be a bench guy his first season. He needs to bulk up before he can be a great forward but the basics are there. He has length and athleticism… its just about putting it all together.

PF-Matt Simpkins (4 star recruit, No.29 PF)- Simpkins is a great defender and has great athleticism, which is pretty much the bread and butter of Memphis basketball. He won’t score a ton, but he can still be an offensive presence if he is guarded by someone smaller than him.

PF- Angel Garcia (4 star recruit, No.19 PF)- In my opinion, Garcia is a very underrated recruit. He is a 6’10” guy that can shoot threes and he can spread the floor on you which will help this athletic Memphis roster. If he can consistently make three pointers he can win the Tigers some ballgames.

Dino Gaudio has done a great job getting this program back on track after the tragic death of then head coach Skip Prosser. The Demon Deacons should have a fun time with these outstanding freshman, and they might just lead this team to an NCAA tournament appearance.

Recruits:

SF-Al-Farouq Aminu (5 star recruit, No.4 SF)-This is another guy that has the ability to create shots for himself.  He will have no problem being the go-to-guy for Wake. We’ll also see how he does playing against his brother who plays for Georgia Tech.

C-Ty Walker (5 star recruit, No.4 C)- He is a tremendous defender and can block shots inside. If he improves on the offensive end, Wake will be a much scarier team next year. As for now, he should work on strength in order to have the ability to battle in the post with ACC big men.

C-Tony Woods (4 star recruit, No.10 C-This guy is an athletic rebounder. He is a great player to have in the game but, like Walker, he needs to improve his offense. If he does, these two guys could be a scary combo.

Kosta Koufos was a great center, but Ohio State more than replaced him with BJ Mullens. In my opinion Mullens is the best incoming freshman; he is an athletic, tall, and versatile player. Thad Matta did another great job preparing this team for an NCAA tournament run with this class. The word is Terrelle Pryor will not be playing basketball in college (source: http://www.terrellepryor.org)

Recruits:

C-BJ Mullens (5 star recruit, No.1 C)-I love this kid, and I believe that he can be the best player in college basketball next season. The key for him is rebounding on the offensive end. If he does that, you might be seeing games like this in the Big Ten.

SG-William Buford (5 star recruit, No.3 SG)-Buford provides a scoring guard that the Buckeyes lacked last season.  He can penetrate to the basket which will open up shots for Mullens. Buford may be the key to the Buckeyes success this season.

PG-Anthony Carter (3 star recruit, No.21 PG)-Plays a good point guard position but isn’t a huge factor on the offensive end. His job will be getting Mullens and Buford the ball when he gets off the bench.

SG-Walter Offutt (3 star recruit, No.29 SG)- Tore his ACL last season for the second time. He may be done with basketball, but that remains to be seen.

It must be fun having Roy Williams’ job: getting some of the best recruits while having the best team in the nation heading into next season. This group might not get the playing time that they would at other schools, but they could have a national championship at the end of the season. Nonetheless, they are outstanding players and that’s why UNC is number five on my list.

Recruits:

PF-Ed Davis (5 star recruit, No.3 PF)-Davis is lengthy and he can rebound. As for now, he isn’t a great scorer in the low block but he has time to develop. Playing for UNC, he won’t have to contribute as much right away.

PF-Tyler Zeller (5 star recruit, No.7 PF)- Zeller is a scorer (he averaged 32.1 PPG in high school) and if he can improve his strength, he can put up double digits consistently as early as his sophomore season. He is also a good guy to have running the floor; don’t think this guy will ever pass up the opportunity for a bucket.

PG- Larry Drew (4 star recruit, No.4 PG)- He doesn’t have a great perimeter shot, but like the other freshman he’ll have time to develop it. In the future he can be a good point guard for the Tar Heels.

SG- Justin Watts (3 star recruit)- He is an athletic combo guard, he’ll eat up minutes late in his career but don’t expect much next season.

Rick Pitino gets yet another stellar recruiting class for 2008. Samardo Samuels is an amazing player and should score with more ease than most freshmen in the Big East. With this class, Louisville should easily fill the hole left by two big men: Derrick Caracter and David Padgett.

Recruits:

PF-Samardo Samuels (5 star recruit, No.1 PF)- Samuels will dominate almost anybody inside. He is a big time scorer and will prove it next season for the Cardinals.

PF-Terrence Jenniings (4 star recruit)- He will be a defensive presence; the Cardinals will want him to block shots and not try to do too much offensively. He is a 20 year old playing as a freshman, was originally an ’06 recruit.

SF-Jared Swopshire (4 star recruit, No.18 SF)- Looks a lot like Ronald Ramon, and plays a lot like him too. He has a good three point shot, but he isn’t the most athletic guy on the floor. He can be a go-to-shooter in the future.

SG-Kyle Kuric (3 star recruit, No.28 SG)- Won’t see much time if any next season, and he may be one of those guys who transfers in the future. However, he can shoot the three so if he improves athleticism he may be a good player.

Georgetown will have a tough time replacing last year’s team even with a great recruiting class. In the event that these guys can stick around another season, the Hoyas should be back in contention for a national championship. John Thompson III did a great job recruiting these players.

Recruits:

PF-Greg Monroe (5 star recruit, No.2 PF)- Great athlete and a great scorer, he will have a huge offensive load to carry for Georgetown next year and it will be interesting to see how he handles the pressure.

C-Henry Sims (4 star recruit, No.7 C)- Not a great scorer/rebounder, but he will be in there for defense. He can block almost anyone’s shot but won’t be a threat on the offensive end.

SG-Jason Clark (4 star recruit, No.12 SG)- He is a mid range shooter that plays good defense and isn’t too quick. He needs to develop his perimeter game if he wants to really help this Georgetown team because I don’t see a lot of players on that team that can make threes.

PF-Chris Braswell (4 star recruit, No.18 PF)- Quick guy that can score inside but doesn’t play too great defensively. He needs to be a little more consistent with his scoring but can be a great player in the future because he has good size.

UConn will have a great team next season regardless of recruits. However, getting top players never hurts. Jim Calhoun was smart to go out and get a point guard, especially one as good as Kemba Walker. The rest of the recruits may have to wait their turn to get into the limelight, but it will be worth the wait and all should be great players.

Recruits:

PG-Kemba Walker (5 star recruit, No.2 PG)-Not a good three point shooter but he is a tremendous athlete and plays a great point guard. He gives it his all on the court and plays great defense. He can really help this UConn team reach the Final Four.

PF-Ater Majok (4 star recruit, No.10 PF)- He is a quick forward but he isn’t a great scorer down low. He might see a lot of time next season but he won’t get too much of an offensive load to carry as his main objective will be playing good defense.

SG-Nate Miles (4 star recruit)- Needs to improve his strength but he can be a very good three point shooter for the Huskies in the future.

SG-Scottie Haralson (3 star recruit, No.38 SG)- Has good strength, but will probably be riding the bench next season. If he does see time, don’t expect a lot of scoring.

Bill Self set himself up for another possible national championship run in the future with this class. He got himself a set of twins (seemed to help Stanford) and three other great basketball players. In the future these guys could contend with past year’s teams for one of the best teams in Kansas history.

Recruits:

PF-Markieff Morris (4 star recruit)- Has great size and can score the basketball. He won’t be tremendous next season but he should be a great player in the future if he can continue to play good defense.

PF-Marcus Morris (4 star recruit)-Has grown a couple of inches and now has surpassed his brother in height. Like him, he can score the ball and will need to keep improving defense to be a great player.

SG-Tyshawn Taylor (4 star recruit, No.20 SG)- Originally committed to Marquette but backed out when Crean left for Indiana. He can push the tempo and score in transition and is a pretty good pickup for this Kansas team.

SG-Travis Releford (4 star recruit, No.10 SG)- This kid can be a big time scorer for the Jayhawks if he can improve his mid-range game. He can score a lot of points as early as next season.

PF-Quintrell Thomas (4 star recruit, No.32 PF)- Great rebounder and a tough guy, but he needs to work on his offensive game in order to be a great player for Kansas in the future.

SG-Tyrone Appleton (3 star recruit, JUCO)- Won’t see a lot of time, but will be used for defense.

SF-Mario Little (3 star recruit, JUCO)- Also won’t see a lot of time, can score sometimes but mainly used for defensive situations.

+ Not only is the Big East the best conference this year, but it looks like its setting itself up to be the best conference in years to come. Bob Huggins got a key late signing in Devin Ebanks, and if he can keep Ebanks around campus for a couple seasons then the Mountaineers could be contending for a final four in short time.

Recruits:

SF-Devin Ebanks (5 star recruit, No.3 SF)- Has a good shot, but not from three point range. He is an athletic combo forward that can score a ton of points for WVU. If he sticks around longer than his freshman year he will put up tremendous numbers.

PF-Kevin Jones (4 star recruit, No.11 PF)- Should improve his perimeter shot before he becomes a great player for Huggins, but as for now, he is a good athlete and a great passer. He is small so he’ll probably play more of a small forward in college.

PF-Roscoe Davis (4 star recruit, No.34 PF)- He is a big player that needs to work on scoring, but he plays pretty good defense and can be a good interior defender. If he improves his offense he can be a great weapon for the Mountaineers.

PG-Darryl Brant (3 star recruit, No.26 PG)- He won’t see a lot of time this year, but in the future could be a good player. He needs to work on his point guard skills before he sees a lot of the court, maybe a year to learn the position will help this kid.

Also Considered: USC, Duke, Florida, Kentucky, Michigan State, Minnesota, Alabama, Tennessee

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