Northwestern Wins: A College Hoops Blog

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Posts Tagged ‘Memphis Tigers’

Top Ten Games Of The Week (12/8-12/14)

Posted by Zach on December 7, 2008

The November tournaments are complete. The ACC/Big Ten Challenge is complete. We’re starting to become more and more familiar with the contenders and pretenders as we inch closer and closer to conference season in college basketball. Even though exams are nearing and a bit of a lull in quality games may be upon us, there’s still ample opportunity for some teams to notch resume-building victories. Here’s my top ten intriguing matchups for this week:

1. #8 Texas vs. #17 Villanova- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)– We’ve seen what the Texas Longhorns are capable of this season. They’ve already played two very difficult games- losing to Notre Dame by 1 in Maui and inching UCLA at home last week. We know A.J. Abrams is an impressive shooting when he’s hot, Damion James is an NBA scout’s dream with his rebounding and scoring skills, and players like Justin Mason and Dexter Pittman are fine secondary players. We know this team is capable of finishing their season in Detroit. But what do we know about Villanova? Not much considering their two best wins are on a neutral floor against Rhode Island and at Pennsylvania. I don’t necessarily blame Jay Wright for cooking up a cupcake schedule early for his young Villanova squad. The question remains: Does beating up on Houston Baptist really prepare you for physical and battle-tested Texas? We’ll find out Tuesday night. Dante Cunningham has been phenomenal for Villanova- 17.3 PPG, 8.0 RPG- and will need to play a huge role in a Wildcats victory at the Jimmy V. Prediction: Texas 77, Villanova 69

2. #18 Memphis at #20 Georgetown- Saturday (CBSHD)-
Speaking of being unable to properly evaluate contending teams, how about Memphis? They’ve played only one game since the Puerto Rico loss to Xavier, a thrashing of Marshall featuring the coming out party of Tyreke Evans, and will not play before this showdown in D.C. on Saturday afternoon. Memphis has five players scoring in double figures; we certainly know they can use their superior athleticism and penetration abilities to overwhelm the less-athletic Georgetown bunch. But, will this type of game come down to toughness? Free throws? Home court advantage? Inexperience at the point guard position with Wesley Witherspoon the new ball carrier for John Calipari? I expect the excellent Georgetown defense to confuse the Memphis offense in this basketball game and leave with a quality victory. Memphis’ Shawn Taggart is averaging a double-double thus far at 11 and 10. We’ll see if he can keep it up on Saturday. Prediction: Georgetown 68, Memphis 64

3. #14 Xavier at Cincinnati- Saturday (ESPN2)
– One of my favorite rivalries in college basketball has meaning this time around. The Xavier Musketeers will march into their inner-city rival’s home turf Saturday night 8-0 (assuming they beat Ohio at home) and likely ranked near the top ten in the nation. Cincinnati, with their rich heritage basketball tradition dating back to Oscar Robertson, has all of a sudden transformed into a football school with their Orange Bowl berth. It would be a monumental win for coach Mike Cronin if he can dethrone the hated Musketeers at home behind stars Deonta Vaughn and Mike Williams. Beating UNLV in Vegas and UAB on their home floor is a good start, but the Bearcats only scored 47 points against Florida State. Which Cincinnati squad will show up Saturday? Expect the fired up one. Prediction: Cincinnati 70, Xavier 68

4. #5 Gonzaga at Washington State- Wednesday– Pullman, Washington is not an easy place to win. The home crowd is always rowdy, the stifling Washington State defense is terrifying and the Cougars may desperately need a quality win for their NCAA Tournament resume before delving into a weakened Pac-10 schedule. They had an opportunity in New Jersey against Pittsburgh and lost. They had Baylor at home on Saturday and faltered. If they fall to Gonzaga, their only real chances in-conference are Arizona State and UCLA. Gonzaga doesn’t quite have the same problem- they already downed Maryland and Tennessee and have games vs. Connecticut, Memphis, Tennessee and Arizona on the slate (does Arizona really quality anymore?) Look for Taylor Rochestie, Aron Baynes, Klay Thompson and the balanced fighting Bennett’s give Gonzaga a scare in the first half before talents like Josh Heytvelt and Austin Daye down low are simply way too much to handle. Prediction: Gonzaga 67, Washington State 58

5. #22 Davidson vs. West Virginia- Jimmy V Classic, Tuesday (ESPNHD)- Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Stephen Curry. Sorry, but why else would you watch this game? No offense to Alex Ruoff or Devin Ebanks, but let’s be honest here. Prediction: Davidson 77, West Virginia 67

6. Butler at Ohio State- Saturday (BTN)– Don’t look now, folks, but perennial contender Butler is unbeaten in this early season. They’ve downed Northwestern, who has beaten Florida State and crushed DePaul, and won a big conference game at Cleveland State. The road becomes a bit more treacherous for Brad Stevens and Butler in the next couple weeks, though- @ Bradley, @ Ohio State, @ Xavier and UAB at home. Luckily, none of these matter an incredible amount because Butler probably isn’t going to grab an at-large berth anyway. The point is: Butler, supposedly in a down year after losing A.J. Graves, Pete Campbell and Mike Green, is still winning and it shows how tremendous of a problem they have in Indianapolis. Ohio State has two great wins @ Miami after the McClinton Swipe and in Indy against Notre Dame with Harangody playing. I won’t let Pat take credit for predicting Ohio State’s resurgence, either, because his entire reasoning was that B.J. Mullens will dominate college basketball and he’s not even averaging 7 PPG. Prediction: Ohio State 66, Butler 58

7. Dayton at Creighton- Wednesday- Mmmm, nothing like a yummy quality mid-major game on a Wednesday night! Okay, that was weird. But seriously, how about those Dayton Flyers? They downed mighty Mercer at home, defeated Auburn in Chicago and won a 54-50 nail biter at Akron Saturday that sent basketball back about 50 years. Oh, and they toppled Marquette in that same Chicago tournament for a win that will surely be discussed in March along with Dayton’s seed. When forward Chris Wright- 13.6 PPG, 7.3 RPG- is playing, Dayton wins. They have an extremely difficult test in Omaha against a Creighton team that needs a resume-building win after New Mexico has flopped and the Jays lost to Arkansas Little Rock and Nebraska. Booker Woodfox and P’Allen Stinnett (I did not make up those names) are two outstanding players for Creighton and I expect them to defend their always packed home court and take down mighty Dayton. Prediction: Creighton 78, Dayton 70

8. #10 Tennessee at Temple- Saturday (ESPN)
– Could the Temple Owls be hitting their stride? They were outplayed by Buffalo and Miami (OH) in two games prior to an underrated win in Happy Valley against Penn State. The most positive sign for Temple? They won while receiving only two points from Dionte Christmas, who may be the best all-around player in the Atlantic 10 (19.0 PPG, 7.3 RPG, 2.9 APG). Still, let’s be real, we’re talking about Penn State here. Not exactly Tennessee and their incredible talent, depth and athleticism. Temple will need an upset of epic proportions to win this game and most likely a 30+ point performance from Christmas. If you didn’t know, Tyler Smith notched the first triple-double in Tennessee basketball history on Wednesday. Prediction: Tennessee 83, Temple 67

9. #5 Gonzaga vs. Arizona in Phoenix- Sunday (FSNHD)
– Speaking of teams that need a quality win. Arizona not only needs to win this game to stay alive for an at-large berth, they may need this win to keep their basketball program in tact. Forget the Olson drama and the departing players and Brandon Jennings, this team has now lost two heartbreakers: the UAB fiasco that prevented them from notching two high-quality wins in Madison Square Garden and the 11-point halftime lead blown at Texas A&M on Friday ending in a game-winning Aggies three. Chase Budinger is doing his part at 20.1 PPG and Jordan Hill has been phenomenal at 17.4 PPG and 12.3 RPG. But can they stop Gonzaga? My guess is no. Prediction: Gonzaga 85, Arizona 75

10. San Diego State vs. Saint Mary’s- Saturday (HDNET)
– Is this San Diego State team flying under the radar? They beat struggling San Diego at home and led most of the game vs. Arizona State, but you’ll have to search hard for any quality wins. Beating tournament-bound Saint Mary’s on a neutral floor is a nice start. Kyle Spain is setting himself up to contend for Mountain West Player of the Year at 17.9 PPG and 5.3 RPG for the Aztecs. Unfortunately, they may be getting Patrick Mills when he’s hitting his stride. In his last three games against Fullerton, Providence and Kent State, he’s scored 20+ points and made 25 of 55 shots. Prediction: Saint Mary’s 74, San Diego State 68

Honorable Mention

  • California at Utah- Wednesday (MTN)
  • San Diego State at Arizona- Wednesday
  • Saint Joseph’s at Villanova- Thursday (ESPN2)
  • Iowa State at Iowa- Friday (BTN)
  • VCU at Richmond- Saturday (ESPNU)
  • Indiana at Kentucky- Saturday (CBSHD)
  • Utah at Oklahoma- Saturday (ESPN2)
  • DePaul vs. UCLA- Saturday (HDNET)
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Posted in Top Ten Games of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Xavier Henry Picks Memphis

Posted by Zach on November 18, 2008

The battle for the #1 player in the ESPN 150 came down to the Memphis Tigers and Kansas Jayhawks.

Kind of like something else I faintly remember.

Only this time the Tigers prevailed. After celebrating a midnight win over his disciple Derek Kellogg and Massachusetts, Calipari was informed this morning that Xavier Henry, a 6’7 forward from Oklahoma, will attend Memphis next season.

The decision came down to two main factors: 1) Henry loves the up-tempo style that Calipari employs and has resulted in deep tournament runs recently, and 2) Henry wanted to be at school with his brother, C.J., who is currently on the Memphis basketball team but sidelined with an injury. Both of Henry’s parents played at Kansas, so the decision was a difficult one that took much deliberation.

“What separates him [Henry] are physical tools and talent,” ESPNU National Recruiting Coordinator Paul Biancardi said. “He has consistently dominated the opposition and doesn’t take bad shots; he operates within the framework of his team.”

The start to Henry’s senior season will be delayed up to six weeks following surgery to repair a broken cheekbone suffered in an automobile accident on October 22. He is expected to be cleared for game action in late December. The Tigers will lose seniors Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier and likely freshman Tyreke Evans after this season, so the commitment of Henry is huge for Memphis. He’ll team up with Shawn Taggart, Willie Kemp, Angel Garcia, Roburt Sallie, Wesley Witherspoon, his brother C.J, and the rest of a solid 2009 recruiting class next season which could include both John Wall and Dominic Cheek.

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November 18: The Day After

Posted by Tommy on November 18, 2008

ESPN Tip-off Marathon

The inaugural College Hoops Tip-off Marathon kicked off last night on ESPN after Monday Night Football. For myself, it was the first opportunity to watch college hoops in HD since the National Championship. I must say, there is nothing better than Hi-Def college basketball. The opening matchup pitted two coaches and programs with plenty of ties in Memphis and UMass. John Calipari, the former coach at UMass, coached against his former team captain and disciple in Derek Kellogg.  The game itself started off like a playground match with plenty of cherry-picking and more turnovers than field goals. Once the nerves settled it was all Memphis. After the 8-minute media timeout, the Tigers never looked back. Neither team broke 40% from the field and Memphis was just 2-19 from deep, but the Tigers forced UMass into 23 turnovers. After watching last night’s game, it looks like Calipari needs to slow his kids down a bit. They don’t have a point guard the caliber of Derrick Rose to reign free in the open court. Taggart and Dozier are great defenders and rebounders, but can’t score on the break like Dorsey could last season. I know Calipari has his coaching identity, but I think the Tigers would benefit from slowing their pace, especially with a pretty short bench.

The next game, a 2 AM tip for those on the east coast, was Saint Mary’s and Fresno State. Pat Mills put on a 27 point, 6 steal and 5 assist display against the Bulldogs. One blemish in Mills’ game last night was his four turnovers. Omar Samhan added 18 points and snatched 13 rebounds for the Gaels. Diamon Simpson also had a double double with 10 points and 10 boards. He also negated 3 shots. In their second game of the season, Saint Mary’s already seems to be living up to their expectations as a contender in the WCC. Saint Mary’s was efficient, shooting 44.6% from the field and 40.9% from deep. They out-rebounded the Bulldogs by 9 and were +9 in the turnover column.

The third game of the marathon tipped at 4 AM this morning. For you insomniacs/unbelievably die-hard basketball fans who did watch this game, you caught a dandy. Idaho State traveled down to Hawaii to square off against the Rainbow Warriors. The largest lead of the game for either team was seven and it fittingly went into overtime. Hawaii held on 67-64 as Bill Amis intercepted the inbound after Adhar Mayen hit the second free throw with less than a second left.

Stars are Shining: Stephen Curry is playing like, well, Stephen Curry. Curry contributed 33 points, 9 assists and 4 steals in Davidson’s rout of James Madison. He was 14-19 from the field and 4-6 from beyond the arc. He seems to be settling into the point pretty quickly, but we’ll really get a gauge of what Curry is like at the point tonight against Oklahoma.

Blake Griffin looked to be in peak form with 20 points and 19 rebounds. He also contributed 6 steals in the Sooners’ rout of Mississippi Valley State. It’ll really be something to see Griffin and Curry square off tonight on ESPN2.

Top-25 Action:

  • #2 UConn blew Hartford out of the water late 99-56 despite the absence of AJ Price
  • #6 Pitt outscored Miami (OH) 47-23 in the 2nd half on their way to a 82-53 victory
  • #10 Purdue used great defense to break down Eastern Michigan in a 87-58 “W”. Hummel led the way with 18.
  • #12 Memphis opened the game sloppily, but pulled away and won 80-58 win.
  • # 14 Oklahoma dismantled the Sun Devils, Griffin was a rebound away from a 20-20 game.
  • # 17 Marquette rolled at home behind a 26 point performance from Wes Matthews.
  • #18 Georgetown held on against Jacksonville 71-62, despite being out-scored in the second half.
  • #21 Davidson dominated James Madison, Curry was an assist away from a double-double.
  • #23 Villanova’s Dante Cunningham scored 31, leading the Cats to a 107-68 victory over Fordham.

NW Wins Horse Trailer Player of the Day: Stephen Curry, Davidson.

Tuesday on the Tube:

  • Liberty @ UNC-Asheville, 2 ET (ESPN)
  • Centenary @ Baylor, 4 ET (ESPN)
  • Richmond @ Syracuse, 6 ET (ESPN)
  • Loyola (IL) @ #10 Purdure, 7 ET (ESPNU)
  • Tennesee-Martin @ #13 Tennessee, 7 ET (ESPN FC)
  • St. John’s @ Boston College, 7:30 ET (ESPN2)
  • Tulane @ #8 Texas, 8 ET
  • Kentucky @ #1 North Carolina, 9 ET (ESPN)
  • Florida Gulf Coast @ #24 Kansas, 9 ET (ESPNU)
  • #21 Davidson @ #14 Oklahoma, 9:30 ET (ESPN2)
  • Nevada @ San Diego, 10 ET (ESPN FC)
  • UAB @ Arizona, 11:30 ET (ESPN2)

Zach: Couple other notes from last night:

  1. How about Virginia Tech struggling again at home? Mount St. Mary’s led most of the game in Blacksburg before the Hokies used a late run to win 62-57. Three VT players scored in double figures, led by Malcolm Delaney at 17 points. Virginia Tech isn’t known as a high-scoring team, but only 62 points against MSM has to be troubling. Look for coach Greenberg to push these guys into shape sooner than later.
  2. Could be a very long year in Eugene. After dodging the upset bullet in their first game, Oregon lost at home to Oakland 82-79 in overtime last night. That extension giving you some nice security, Ernie? Johnathon Jones stole the show for Oakland with 32 points on 13/23 FG, including 10 in overtime. The Ducks had a 16-game non conference home winning streak snapped.
  3. Also upset last night was Georgia, losing at home to Loyola (IL) of the Horizon League. The same Loyola that lost to Division II Rockhurst last week. And the game wasn’t particularly competitive either, with the final scoring being 74-53 in favor of the Ramblers. J.R. Blount led the way with 16 points. They’ll advance to play Purdue while Georgia faces Eastern Michigan. You have to be thinking Dennis Felton may be on the way out soon.
  4. Marquette gave up 87 points to Chicago State at home. This has to be of concern to coach Buzz Williams. The Golden Eagles must step up the defense if they expect to finish in the top five of a loaded Big East this year. Luckily for Williams, Marquette scored the most points in a game since 1980 and won 106-87 with Wes Matthews having another huge night. Domnic James: 2-9 FT.

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Top Ten Games Of The Week (November 17-23)

Posted by Zach on November 17, 2008

The first week of the college hoops season was filled mostly with low-majors attempting to pull off miraculous upsets or two of the top mid-majors in the country doing battle. I’m not saying it was a snoozer seven days; there were certainly a fair share of thrilling games and nail biting finishes for the debut week of the season. But this week we start getting into the meat of November and the preseason tournaments. It’s not quite Old Spice/Maui time yet, but these matchups should keep your plate filled until Thanksgiving break.

1. Coaches vs. Cancer Semis/Finals (November 20, 21, ESPN2)
– I made the dire mistake last week of assuming Houston would beat Georgia Southern and advance to play Duke, so rather than place Duke vs. UCLA as my #1 game, I’ll lump the entire tournament together as my number one game. The semis are both very intriguing with Southern Illinois playing the mid-major that everyone will be rooting for to topple big bad Duke. In the second game, Michigan will need another virtuoso performance from Manny Harris to take down UCLA and their deep, talented squad. Seeing as Rhode Island nearly won at Cameron Sunday, it’d be foolish to write Duke-UCLA in pen. But I’d be shocked if you didn’t see that beautiful matchup Friday night at the Garden. Prediction: Duke 70, UCLA 66 in final

2. Puerto Rico Tip-Off (November 20-23, ESPNU/ESPN2)
– Plenty of quality contests in Puerto Rico beginning on Thursday with Missouri taking on Xavier in the afternoon in what should be a very close game. The winner of that gets to take on Virginia Tech Friday afternoon. On the other side of the bracket, Memphis should defeat Chattanooga while USC will likely handle Seton Hall, setting up an Evans vs. DeRozan battle on Friday night between two very athletic teams. The final could feature any of these teams on Sunday on ESPN. You know the tournament is strong when I’m looking forward to the consolation game, as well. Prediction: USC 75, Virginia Tech 69 in final

3. Paradise Jam Semifinals (November 23, FCS Pacific)
– Assuming we avoid some stunning upset like Southern Miss over Miami, the semis at the Paradise Jam on Sunday night should be Miami vs. Connecticut and San Diego vs. Wisconsin. You’re wondering the same thing I am: why are the two best teams in the tournament on the same side of the bracket? Maybe a nod of respect to Bo Ryan and his recent success in Madison. Regardless, Miami-Connecticut is a battle of top-15 caliber teams featuring Jack McClinton trying to score over Hasheem Thabeet, while San Diego nearly beat UNLV on the road with four key players suspended, so don’t count them out against the Badgers. Prediction: Connecticut vs. Wisconsin final

4. #21 Davidson at #12 Oklahoma (November 18, ESPN2)
– The premiere matchup of the College Hoops Tip-Off 24-hour marathon on the ESPN family is not Kentucky vs. North Carolina. The best game is Davidson vs. Oklahoma for a trip to New York. You all know what to expect from the Wildcats- plenty of Stephen Curry shooting threes. And we can all agree that’s not such a bad thing, right? Also not a bad thing: Watching Blake Griffin score and rebound in the post. Because I don’t see anyone containing my National Player of the Year pick, the Sooners advance. Also keep an eye on Tony Crocker and Austin Johnson trying to contain Curry for forty minutes. Prediction: Oklahoma 80, Davidson 72

5. Kentucky at #1 North Carolina (November 18, ESPN)
– Sure, this game has lost some of its luster. Kentucky is no longer a national powerhouse and lost Friday to VMI. North Carolina declared Tyler Hansbrough out for Tuesday’s contest. Still, College Gameday will be there, it’s a historic and entertaining rivalry, and we get to see great players like Pat Patterson and Wayne Ellington. So stop complaining. Why will North Carolina prevail? I expect Ty Lawson to exploit the Kentucky point guards and have a huge game. Prediction: North Carolina 83, Kentucky 70

6. UAB at Arizona (November 18, ESPN2)- The UAB Blazers are a dangerous team this year in Conference USA, folks. They feature an ultra-talented two headed monster in Paul Delaney and Robert Vaden and Mike Davis, for all of his past transgressions, is a fine basketball coach. They’ll travel to Tuscon fearless and primed for an upset over Chase Budinger, Nic Wise, Jordan Hill and the Wildcats. Unless Budinger asserts himself from the tip, I think an upset is very possible here, with Vaden showcasing his talents on national television much like he did last year in Freedom Hall. Prediction: UAB 69, Arizona 68

7. Nevada at San Diego (November 18, ESPN FC)
– This game isn’t part of the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon, but it very well should be. I’ll certainly be flipping over to ESPN Full Court to watch freshman phenom Luke Babbitt lead the charge for Nevada into San Diego to take on Brandon Johnson, Gyno Pomare and the Torreros. Credit San Diego coach Bill Grier for scheduling so many top mid-majors early in the season; a victory over Nevada, a tournament team, could prove vital on Selection Sunday.  Prediction: San Diego 70, Nevada 67

8. #15 Arizona State at San Diego State (November 18, CBS College Sports)
– Yet another tremendous basketball game on Tuesday, this one possibly resulting in Upset City. The Aztecs return 96% of their scoring and 84% of their rebounding from last season under head coach Steve Fisher, led by stars Lorrenzo Wade and Marquette transfer Ryan Amoroso. Kyle Spain and Tim Shelton also boost an outstanding frontcourt, meaning Jeff Pendergraph is going to have his hands full. I’m calling this one, folks. Prediction: San Diego State 70, Arizona State 68

9. Massachusetts at #13 Memphis (November 17, ESPN)
– I’ll be staying up late to watch this one on ESPNHD, with John Calipari coaching against his former assistant (Derek Kellogg) and school (Massachusetts, whom he coached to prominence in the 90’s). This will be my first look at Tyreke Evans and his ability to run the point for the Tigers. Chris Lowe, Anthony Gurley and Ricky Harris may be able to hang around with Memphis for a while, but the muscle of Taggart and Dozier down low will be too much to handle. Prediction: Memphis 84, Massachusetts 74

10. Illinois at Vanderbilt (November 20, ESPN FC)
– Both of these teams will likely end up in the NIT, but it’s still Big Ten vs. SEC in November, which means I’ll be tuning in. A.J. Ogilvy is one of the top players in the SEC while Chester Frazier and Robert Meachem lead the way for Bruce Weber’s Illini in a difficult road environment. If Demetri McCamey is shooting well from deep, Illinois has a chance.  Prediction: Vanderbilt 69, Illinois 64

Honorable Mention

  • Georgia at #11 Purdue (November 18)
  • Miami (OH) at #6 Pittsburgh (November 17)
  • Tennessee-Martin at #13 Tennessee (November 18)
  • Cleveland State at Washington (November 18)
  • Tulsa at Oklahoma State (November 20)
  • Vermont at Maryland (November 21)
  • UAB at Old Dominion (November 22)
  • VCU at Rhode Island (November 22)
  • Clemson at Charlotte (November 22)

Posted in Top Ten Games of the Week | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ten Bold Predictions For 2008-09

Posted by Zach on November 10, 2008

We have arrived.

My equally obsessive passion- baseball- kept me occupied long enough over the summer to avoid thinking about how much I miss college basketball. As my team’s season ended with a sharp groundball to Aki Iwamura in mid-October, my mind immediately transforms into one completely transfixes with counting the hours, minutes, seconds until the squeak of the sneakers against the college basketball hardwood. Tonight, the Cameron Indoor Stadium doors open, the Crazies will paint their faces and Coach K will patrol the sidelines. I know it’s only Presbyterian, it doesn’t matter one iota to me. A real college hoops game will be played tonight and that’s more than enough to keep me going through the bitter cold of the winter.

We’ve done our best to get our readers prepared for the journey ahead. With bracketology, major conference previews, Top 25’s, breakout players, predictions, summer roundups and instant reactions to breaking news, we hope our little experiment called Northwestern Wins has been a decent read for you, the fans that have longed for the opening jump ball as much as we have. Hopefully you’ll make your way back here during the regular season. We have plenty in store. So tie up those Adidas, Gerald Henderson, and let the season begin.

Here are ten bold predictions that we could see in 2008-09:

1. Virginia Tech will be the firmest ACC challenge for North Carolina- The Heels were pushed to the brink in last year’s ACC Tournament by the Hokies, who return everyone of note besides Deron Washington. Seth Greenberg’s team plays the best defense in the ACC and feature talented players like Jeff Allen and A.D. Vassallo. Blacksburg isn’t an easy place to win for any opponent, and these two teams face off late in the seaosn (March 4). Virginia Tech, not Duke or Wake or Miami, will give the Tar Heels their toughest fight during ACC play.

2. Memphis will lose in the first round of the NCAA Tournament- John Calipari’s team certainly has the talent assembled, but I see a combination of mostly role players with limited upside. Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson, Shawn Taggart, Angel Garcia and Willie Kemp are perfect role players around stars like Chris Douglas-Roberts and Derrick Rose, but can they be the centerpieces? Tyreke Evans could mold into something special very soon, but he’s no Derrick Rose. They also turn the ball over enough to make John Calipari’s head explode and nobody can shoot free throws.

3. Siena will defeat Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse– Led by Edwin Ubiles, Kenny Hansbrouck and Alex Franklin, three players who scored 15+ PPG last season, Siena will be the top mid-major in college basketball this season. They return nearly everyone from their 4-13 win over Vanderbilt last March, and the Saints will finally receive national recognition when they take down Kansas on the road January 6. Look for them to go undefeated in the MAAC, as well.

4. The Big East will get 10 teams in the tourney– I’ve made this prediction before, but the Big East is strong enough where a 8-10 Providence team could be the last team in. Barring some major disappointments, the nine teams ahead of Providence in the preseason should push their way into the field. The Friars added the National Coach of the Year and have plenty of scoring. Ten teams from one conference will happen.

5. Gonzaga will reach the Final Four- If Austin Daye finally plays up to his potential, Gonzaga will be playing into April. They have the explosiveness of Jeremy Pargo, the scoring of Micah Downs and Matt Bouldin, the three-point shooting of Stephen Gray, and the inside game of Daye and Josh Heytvelt. They’ll be tested in a brutal non-conference schedule along with San Diego and Saint Mary’s in the WCC.

6. Someone will emerge in the Duke frontcourt- Whether it’s Mason Plumlee, Lance Thomas, Brian Zoubek or Kyle Singler becoming more of an inside force, the Blue Devils will finally have someone to lean on in the paint when March rolls around. My money’s on Singler- he gained 20 pounds of bulk over the summer in preparation for lasting through ACC play. Thomas may finally break out of his shell.

7. Iman Shumpert will win ACC Rookie of the Year– Shumpert will be the centerpiece of the Jackets offense (especially now with Clinch suspended due to academics) from the opening tip. He has the skills to outlast Aminu, Davis, Zeller, Williams, Jones, Singleton and the rest for the honor.

8. Indiana will not win a Big Ten game this season- Not one. Not even over Iowa, Northwestern or Michigan. Look at that roster. It would barely survive in the Horizon League.

9. Connecticut will defeat North Carolina in the title game– I love the way UConn, at full strength, matches up with the Heels. Thabeet can frustrate Hansbrough down low, Price matches up well with Lawson containing his speed, Austrie/Dyson can hold Ellington from getting too many open looks, and the Huskies are nearly as deep as North Carolina. It’s not like Jim Calhoun will be outcoached, either.

10. Duke will lose to Presbyterian tonight– On second thought, I’m not that bold.

Posted in Predictions | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Wednesday News And Notes

Posted by Zach on October 22, 2008

Interrupting the Big East preview to get caught up on the latest News and Notes around college basketball as the season continues to approach. Only 20 days until Houston/Georgia Southern!

– Seth Davis has been scribing plenty lately, this time heading down south to Memphis for a discussion with coach John Calipari. I thought it was a bit puzzling Davis offered Calipari a chance to watch last year’s National Championship with him later that day (that would be like asking Dennis Eckersley if he wanted to sit down and re-watch Game 1 of the 1988 World Series), but that’s beside the point. Davis goes into some key factors for the Tigers, including the obvious: how can you replace Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Joey Dorsey, and still expect to be a top-20 team? He wonders whether Willie Kemp or Tyreke Evans will run more point guard, whether Robert Dozier can progress into more of a complete offensive player after getting rejected by the NBA, and if Antonio Anderson, who quietly led C-USA in assist/turnover ratio, can emerge as the team leader.

– Sophomore shooting star Nick Calathes is now around 75% recovering from an apparent hip flexor. Coach Billy Donovan is taking it slow with Calathes in hopes of having him 100% by the season opener, which seems very realistic. Donovan has to be feeling a lot better this year than he was last October dealing with an extremely young team. Even with Mareese Speights departed, Donovan has a nice nucleus led by Calathes and Jai Lucas. He’s also in the top two for Kenny Boynton. Look for the Gators to return to the NCAA Tournament this year and Calathes to be a huge reason why.

– Some injuries to report out of Minnesota and Georgia Tech. Gophers forward Damian Johnson broke his left non-shooting hand in practice Monday and received surgery a day later. He’s expected to miss four to six weeks, so coach Tubby Smith should expect to have his valuable reserve on the court by the end of November. Johnson finished second on Minnesota with 59 steals while averaging 7.1 PPG and 4.7 RPG. In Atlanta, senior De’Andre Bell is lost for the season due to spinal stenosis, a devastating injury that forced T.J. Ford to miss an entire NBA season back in 2004. Bell started 22 games for the Jackets last year averaging 6.6 PPG and showing contributions on defense.

– Sad news out of Asheville: 7’7 behemoth Kenny George’s basketball career is over. He’ll remain in an Iowa hospital for at least another month recovering from a staph infection, the end possibly resulting in right foot amputation. His enormous stature resulting from an overactive pituitary gland, which reaches 7’9 with shoes along with the ability to dunk flat-footed, has caused George plenty of knee and foot problems over the course of his basketball career. George looks to return to Asheville in the second semester to complete his degree, but we won’t see him on the court ever again. He won Big South Defensive Player of the Year last season and finished with 12.4 PPG and 7.0 RPG.

– Top ten class of 2009 prospect Lance Stephenson was arrested earlier this month and charged with a Class B misdemeanor following a charge he groped a woman’s breast and buttocks inside the school. Stephenson, a native of Brooklyn that stars at the same high school (Lincoln) Sebastian Telfair once graced, has a long history of petty crimes and missteps, causing many prominent programs to think twice about pursuing the talented wing in fear of adding a Derrick Caracter or Nate Miles clone. Stephenson is ranked as the #1 SF by Scout.com and might be heading to St. John’s. They’ll take anyone regardless of baggage at this point.

– Speaking of Nate Miles, he has a found a home in Southern Idaho. The former Connecticut Huskie who coach Jim Calhoun called “our best offensive player” at one point this summer violated a restraining order twenty minutes after receiving said order. He was then expelled from Connecticut and will now star at the College of Southern Idaho in the second semester. Miles was planning on filing an appeal in hopes of returning to Storrs at some point, but Calhoun opted to move on. They’ll now give more playing time to the likes of Jerome Dyson and Craig Austrie, while College of Southern Idaho coach Steve Gosar has to be doing cartwheels.

– Tuned into the Midnight Madness coverage Friday night around 10 PM when I got home from a movie and was pleasantly surprised by the revolving coverage. I came away impressed by the intensity of the Gonzaga scrimmage and the dunking ability of Jeremy Pargo (already knew this). I watched Stephen Curry nail six out of six points on his last rack to defeat Brendan McKillop in an epic three-point shooting contest in Davidson (Katz has a Curry/Davidson article up on ESPN.com). ESPNU did a nice job covering each school and gave Katz, along with Adrian Branch, plenty of time to discuss upcoming games and expectations until midnight.

Some notes from various conferences regarding preseason standings/awards/predictions:
– Top four in the Big East in order: Connecticut, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame
– Villanova over Marquette for the fifth spot was surprising. Could this be the Buzz effect?
– Top three in the SEC East in order: Tennessee, Florida, Kentucky. Also happen to be the top three teams in the conference
– First team All-SEC: Calathes, T. Smith, Downey, Patterson and Oglivy. Can’t argue with that.
– Oklahoma picked over Texas to win the Big 12 was a bit surprising. Kansas tied with Baylor for third.
– Blake Griffin tabbed as preseason player of the year was an obvious selection

– Gary Parrish has his Preseason Top 26, All-Americans and Top Point/Combo Guards up. I take exception to some of his opinions: 1) Duke better than UCLA, Michigan State, Purdue and Pittsburgh,  2) Ohio State ranked #19 ahead of Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Baylor, 3) Wake Forest unranked, 4) Patrick Mills on his third team over Tyrese Rice and 5) Jrue Holiday on his third team over Jack McClinton. I’ll have my Top 50 players list and All-American teams up (along with Patrick and Tommy’s) in November.

– Site news: As you can tell, I’m entrenched in my Big East preview right now. When I’m finished (I’ll have my #6 team up tomorrow), I’m planning on writing both an SEC preview over two days and a shorter Big 12 preview, much like Tommy’s Big 10 preview in terms of length. Pat and Tommy are busy with school and football/volleyball after class, but they’ll have the ACC and Pac 10 previews done before the end of the month. Expect daily selections, weekly ACC and Big East reports, weekly game scouting reports and many other features when the season begins.

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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 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

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Gameday, Sleepers and Other News

Posted by Zach on August 28, 2008

Not much news in or around college basketball during late August. I could update you on the Derrick Caracter situation, but he’s not worth anyone’s time. The recruiting rampage has died down with the elite camps concluding and coaches returning for the start of school. While some injury or late transfer may take place in the next few days, don’t expect much big news as the summer ends and fall begins. Don’t fear though, college basketball is closer than you may think. To conjure up excitement, here’s a look at the recently released College Gameday sites for the 2008-09 season:

Jan. 17- Chapel Hill, N.C. (Miami at North Carolina)
Jan. 24- South Bend, Ind. (Connecticut at Notre Dame)
Jan. 31- Knoxville, Tenn. (Florida at Tennessee)
Feb. 7- Spokane, Wash. (Memphis at Gonzaga)
Feb. 14- Madison, Wis. (Ohio State at Wisconsin)
Feb. 21- Austin, Texas (Oklahoma at Texas)
Feb. 28- Berkeley, Calif. (UCLA at California)
Mar. 7- Morgantown, W.V. (Louisville at West Virginia)

Fairly pedestrian, right? The two best games are Connecticut-Notre Dame, which should have major Big East title implications, and Oklahoma-Texas, which should do the same for the Big 12 later in the season. California must feel fortunate considering they’re in full-fledged rebuilding and the UCLA pairing will probably result in a blowout. Memphis-Gonzaga could be interesting, but the Zags never lose at home. That March 7 game could prove to be the reason Louisville loses out on a Big East title in the last weekend of the season. Keep that date circled. Not an easy place to play.

Anyway, on to the main point of this post: my top five sleeper/surprise teams of this upcoming season:

UNLV
– Lon Kruger is one of the smartest coaches in the business, taking his team on a two week summer trek around Australia to prepare for the season against top-notch Australian teams. The Rebels are perennially a contender in the Mountain West and reached the Sweet 16 just two years ago in Saint Louis; this year, they’re the clear favorite to win the regular season crown in the MWC. Still, because of the MWC TV package with CSTV and the lack of national exposure, most don’t give the credit to UNLV and Kruger that is deserved.

The Rebels are led by super-talented guard Wink Adams, a true playmaker in every sense of the word that scored 25 against Kansas in their second round matchup last March. He’ll need to improve drastically on his 14 total points scored against rival BYU in two games for the Rebels to win the conference. UNLV will be boosted by Memphis transfer guard Tre’Von Willis and strong, elite forwards Joe Darger and Rene Rougeau. They’ll be in the Top 25 at some point this year.

Kentucky
– Billy Gillespie showed his coaching mettle last season by overcoming strong pressure and adversity following a disastrous non-conference performance by finishing valiantly in the SEC and in their close loss to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Two freshmen battling for the point guard spot on an SEC contender is never a good thing due to the inexperience, but DeAndre Liggins and Kevin Galloway are prime talents and are fully cleared by the NCAA. Someone will emerge.

The stud is recently healed Patrick Patterson, a forceful and menacing forward who uses his physicality to put up double-doubles on any given night. He’s my pick for preseason SEC player of the year. Jodie Meeks is also healthy and Perry Stevenson is a quality role player for any team. Kentucky could be boom or bust this season due to the amount of freshmen they’re relying on; my inclination says boom, but it could easily go the other way.

Baylor
– The Bears are becoming a sexy sleeper pick for this season, and the direction of the program is clearly heading in the right track after indirectly and unofficially landing one of the top players in the 2009 class, John Wall (wink wink). The Bears will surely improve on a school record nine conference wins from a season ago and have NCAA Tournament expectations. Their guard play is terrific, even with their loss of team leader Aaron Bruce. Curtis Jerrells averaged over 15 PPG last season and may turn out to be a contender for Big 12 POY this season if his outside shooting improves.

The team returns eight of their top nine scorers from a year ago, including emerging sophomore guard LaceDarius Dunn. The Monroe, LA native averaged 13.6 PPG and shot 42% from three in his freshman campaign. Scott Drew also added Michigan transfer Ekpe Udoh to the program, who started 31 games for Michigan the last couple years. Drew has this program on the rise. They could finish third in the Big 12 this year.

Southern Cal
– Most would consider the Trojans exempt from any sleeper list, but the national media may sleep on a team that lost both top-five pick O.J. Mayo and draft defect Davon Jefferson. For the folks in Southern California, here’s two words that should heal any post-Mayo wounds: DeMar DeRozan. Believe me, this kid is going to be something special. Another one-and-done recruit for Tim Floyd, DeRozan has athleticism unmatched in his freshman class, a complete package in terms of scoring and rebounding, and the ability to penetrate and finish in any situation.

Joining DeRozan will be UNC transfer Alex Stepheson, a true post presence who will take more and more pressure off of Taj Gibson to recover following a disappointing 2007-08 season and Leonard Washington to contribute immediately. Daniel Hackett and Dwight Lewis are also extremely valuable role players for Tim Floyd. The Pac-10 isn’t as loaded as in past campaigns, so look for USC to finish third behind UCLA and Arizona State.

Providence
– Most folks scoff when I mention the possibility of the Big East actually getting ten teams into the NCAA Tournament this season. The likelihood of one of the contenders fading and/or the conference beating up on each other too much for this to occur is very high, but even the consideration shows the bulk of top-heavy talent in this conference. That tenth team I’m throwing out there is Providence, led by former Drake coach Keno Davis.

The Friars have two main questions that need to be addressed: 1) is Sharaud Curry healthy enough to lead this team, and 2) who will handle point guard duties in a conference where, frankly, you need a competent point guard. The Friars have some interesting pieces, most notably guard Weyinmi Efejuku, a double-digit per game scorer, and former Manhattan transfer Jeff Xavier, another player who can handle much of the scoring load for Providence. They’ll be tested immediately with the Anaheim Classic and were fortunate in getting a favorable Big East slate with Cincinnati and Rutgers twice.

Some other quick news and notes:

– Marquette sophomore forward Trevor Mbakwe gave every indication he was going to return to the program even with the departure of Tom Crean this off-season, but he has changed his mind and has left Marquette for other ventures. We’ll see which small school scoops him up. He’s a project but a worthwhile one.

– Memphis is heading towards another package deal, a growing and disturbing trend in college basketball. They lured in the brother of one of the top players in the 2009 class, Xavier Henry’s brother C.J, to enroll full-time at their school. Slick move by John Calipari to help in the recruiting of Xavier, so they’ve seemingly moved ahead in the race.

– Villanova landed another top recruit in Mouph Yarou, a 6’9 African big man from a military academy in Virginia, ranked #28 overall in the county by Scout.

– Freshman guard Mark McLaughlin will not play for Nevada this season, a top-100 recruit in the nation. This is a big loss for the Wolfpack as he was expected to team up with Luke Babbitt and contribute mightily this season.

For excellent mid-major season previews, just go to ESPN.com for their ShootAround segment. For the big conferences, we’ve previewed all six on this site, so snoop around.

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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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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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