College Hoops 101

By: David Kay

College Hoops 101 is a weekly article centering around all things college basketball.  David Kay looks back at the previous week, glances forward to what is ahead in the up-coming days, and keeps track of how many games I have watched this season in hopes of topping my mark from a year ago (274.)

This week’s College Hoops 101 comes a day late due to my road trip to Minnesota on Sunday to see my boy Brett Favre do some serious work.  Seriously, all the Favre-haters can suck it.  That’s all I have to say about that… Onto the college hoops!
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The Big East’s Battle Tested NBA Prospects

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By Paul M. Banks and David Kay

During the 2008-2009 season, the Big East set itself apart from any other conference in the history college basketball.  It became the first conference in NCAA Tournament history to not only send five teams to the Sweet Sixteen, but also advance four schools to the Elite 8.  At one time, eight Big East teams were ranked in the AP Top 25, the first time a conference had ever accomplished such a feat. In the first week of January, the conference topped their own mark, as nine teams were voted into the Top 25.

With that sort of resume, it should come as no surprise that the Big East will hear a record number of player names called during this year’s NBA Draft.  While only four players from the conference were drafted last year and just six selected in the 2007 Draft, our most recent mock draft has 12 players being drafted. (The previous high was 11 in 2006; ten of which being among the top 33.)  That number could be even higher if underclassmen Luke Harangody of Notre Dame or Villanova’s Scottie Reynolds stay in the draft, but both are expected to return to their respective schools for their senior seasons as they have left that option open by not signing an agent. “We talk off and on. He’s doing his thing, I’m doing my thing. We communicate a little bit, but it’s kind of shaky what he’s feeling,” Villanova’s Dante Cunningham said of his former teammate at the NBA Draft Combine.notre_dame20harangody20beasley

Having played in undoubtedly the toughest conference in the nation should greatly benefit these future NBA’ers at the next level as they will enter the league battle-tested.  Former UConn point guard A.J. Price summed it up best during our exclusive chat at the combine, “Running through the Big East Conference is like you said, kind of like a mini D-League because there were no easy games, a lot of guys who played in that league will be pros if not this year, then eventually, and it prepared me for this time and I’m glad we got a chance to do that,” Price said.

 
Louisville: Clark Bar and T. Will

Louisville, the Big East regular season and conference tournament champions, was one of the two Big East teams to advance to the Final Four.  The Cardinals punched their ticket to Detroit mainly because of their tandem of versatile forwards, Earl Clark and Terrence Williams.  Clark played some of his best basketball down the stretch and shouldn’t fall out of the lottery while Williams will likely be a mid-to-late first rounder.

Williams was very candid at the combine about the big picture of the NBA Draft. “Some others don’t really work out because they feel they’re already secure in a certain spot, and that’s surprises me because you’d think that people who love basketball would play regardless. Other than it’s just everybody going for a job and at the end of the day it’s just business,” Williams said. 

 
Pittsburgh’s Dynamic Duo

Pitt’s DeJuan Blair is an intriguing prospect.  He only measured in at 6-6.5 in shoes which is far from the ideal size for an NBA power forward.  But his physicality and 7’2” wingspan will help wipe away any doubt teams have about his future productivity in the NBA.  Blair is pretty confident: “I don’t think there was a better offensive rebounder by far in this class at all. There’s something about that ball, I go get it,” he said at the combine. A dominating 22 point, 23 rebound beat-down of UConn’s Hasheem Thabeet during the regular season doesn’t hurt either.

NBA Draft aficionados are buzzing about Blair astonishing weight loss (40 pounds in three weeks) during his workouts. At the NBA Draft combine, Blair had a sense of humor about it. “I told my mom that this morning she said did you cut off your leg off? She couldn’t believe it and that was pretty exciting,” Get ready for the next best-selling book: “The DeJuan Blair Diet.”  

Besides being the object of obsession by ESPN analyst Bob Knight because of his outstanding shot fake, fellow Panther Sam Young should be taken in the last first *Nov 21 - 00:05*round and have a solid pro career due to his savvy basketball knowledge and multi-faceted offensive game. “A lot of people don’t think I can play the two, but I think when it’s all said and done I’m going to be a two,” Young said.

 
In like Flynn

Syracuse point guard Jonny Flynn churned out one of the gutsiest performances in conference tournament history this March, when he played 67 of the 70 minutes in the six-overtime classic against UConn and following that up by being on the floor for all 45 minutes of the Orange’s OT victory against West Virginia the very next night.  He is the perfect combination of a true point guard who can score in a variety of ways when needed to.  He currently projects as a mid-lottery pick and should make an immediate impact at the NBA. 

Flynn described his game: “I think I have some characteristics of Chris Paul. His tenacity, he’s hard as nails, fiery, fires his teammates up, he really knows how to get his teammates in position to where they can score, where they don’t have to do much to score. Look at David West and Tyson Chandler; where would they be without Chris Paul?”

Top Ten College Hoops Teams for ’09-’10

By: David K.

The 2008-2009 college basketball season has only been wrapped up for a week, but it is never too early to start looking ahead to next year.  Several elite college players are still sorting out whether or not they will return to school which obviously has a major impact on how loaded some teams might be next season.  I have taken into account which players appear likely to be returning to school when coming up with top ten rankings for next year.

1. Kansas- Cole Aldrich and Sherron Collins are returning to Lawrence, meaning KU will have everybody back from a team that won the Big 12.  Add on two top 25 recruits and the Jayhawks earn my #1 ranking.  Aldrich replaces Tyler Hansbrough as college basketball’s most hated player.

Starters:
C- Cole Aldrich (Jr)
F- Marcus Morris (So)
G- Brady Morningstar (Jr)
G- Sherron Collins (Sr)
G- Tyshawn Taylor (So)

Bench: F- Markieff Morris (So), G- Travis Releford (So), G-Tyrel Reid (Jr), G- Mario Little (Sr), PF-Thomas Robinson (Fr #20), SG- Elijah Johnson (Fr #25)

Gone: Nobody

2. Kentucky- Even if John Calipari didn’t come to Lexington, I would think highly of Ashley Judd’s favorite team next season.  Everyone should be back (even though Jodie Meeks declared for the draft, he did not sign an agent) and on top of the two top 100 recruits already committed, DeMarcus Cousins (#6) has followed Cal from Memphis to UK, and Xavier Henry (#4) could join them as well.

Starters:
C- DeMarcus Cousins (Fr #4)
PF- Patrick Patterson (Jr)
F- Perry Stevenson (Sr)
SG- Jodie Meeks (Sr)
PG- Michael Porter (Sr)

Bench: F- Ramon Harris (Sr), F- Darius Miller (So), G- Kevin Galloway (Sr), G- DeAndre Liggins (So), C- Josh Harrellson (Sr), C- Daniel Orton (Fr #12), SF- Jon Hood (Fr #36)

Gone: Nobody

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3. Duke- A top ten ranking depends on Gerald Henderson’s status.  If he declares for the draft, the Devils likely drop out of my top ten team.  They add some size up front with a pair of talented, but not very physical freshmen.

Starters:
C- Lance Thomas (Sr)
F- Kyle Singler (Jr)
SG- Gerald Henderson (Jr)
G- Elliott Williams (So)
PG- Jon Scheyer (Sr)

Bench: PG- Nolan Smith (Jr), C- Brian Zoubek (Sr), PF- Miles Plumlee (So), PF- Ryan Kelly (Fr #11), PF-Mason Plumlee (Fr #19)

Gone: G- Greg Paulus

4. North Carolina- I am assuming Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington leave Chapel Hill after winning their National Championship.  Despite the likelihood of losing four starters, the Heels have another loaded recruiting class and should be a top ten team.  Getting Marcus Ginyard back from injury and Will Graves from suspension will definitely help.  If Lawson and/or Ellington do return, move the Heels above the Dukies.

Starters:
C- Ed Davis (So)
PF- Deon Thompson (Sr)
G/F- Will Graves (Jr),
SG- Marcus Ginyard (Sr)
PG- Larry Drew II (So)

Bench: C- Tyler Zeller (So), PF- Jon Henson (Fr #3), SG- Dexter Strickland (Fr #18), PF- Travis Wear (Fr #41), PF- David Wear (Fr #42), SG- Leslie McDonald (Fr #63)

Gone: PF-Tyler Hansbrough, SF-Danny Green, G-Bobby Frasor, PG-Ty Lawson, SG-Wayne Ellington (Sr)

5. Purdue- Matt Painter will return his top six players from this season, but will lose a little bit of depth.  If the Boilermakers stay healthy, which was a major issue this year, they should be a top ten caliber team.

Starters:
C- JaJuan Johnson (Jr)
F- Robbie Hummel (Jr)
G- Chris Kramer (Sr)
G- E’Twaun Moore (Jr)
PG- Lewis Jackson (So)

Bench: G- Keaton Grant (Sr), PF- Jeff Robinson (Fr #91)

Gone: C Nemanja Calasan, F Marcus Green

6. Texas- Damion James’ status is still up in the air whether or not he will turn pro.  Even if he does not return for his senior season, the Horns should be a top ten team.  Florida transfer Jai Lucas will be eligible in December and two top 15 recruits will certainly boost this team’s status.

Starters:
C- Dexter Pittman (Jr)
F- Damion James (Sr)
F- Gary Johnson (Jr)
G- Justin Mason (Sr)
PG- Jai Lucas (So)

Bench: PG- Dogus Balbay (Jr), G- Varez Ward (So), F/C- Clint Chapman (Jr), SG-Avery Bradley (Fr #10), SF- Jordan Hamilton (Fr #13), SF- Shawn Williams (Fr #44)

Gone: G A.J. Abrams, PF Connor Atchley


7. Michigan State-
Sparty loses a few important pieces to their team, but still brings back some very talented players, especially in the backcourt.  If they can find some consistency up-front, State will be tough once again.

Starters:
F- Delvon Roe (So)
F- Draymond Green (So)
SF- Raymar Morgan (Sr)
SG- Durrell Summers (Jr)
PG- Kalin Lucas (Jr)

Bench: G- Chris Allen (Jr), PG- Korie Lucious (So), C- Tom Herzog (So), PF- Derrick Nix (Fr #56)

Gone: C Goran Suton, PF Marquise Gray, G Travis Walton, C Idong Ibuk

8. West Virginia- Bob Huggins has everybody back except for Alex Ruoff.  Joe Missoula should get a medical redshirt since he missed all of the past season with a shoulder injury.  Combine that with a maturing group of long, athletic forwards and the Mountaineers will likely be the best team in the Big East.  Watch out for Devin Ebanks next season.

Starters:
F- Wellington Smith (Sr)
F- Devin Ebanks (So)
F- De’Sean Butler (Sr)
G- Joe Missoula (Sr)
G- Truck Bryant (So)

Bench: F- John Flowers (Jr), F- Kevin Jones (So), F- Cam Thoroughman (Jr)

Gone: SG Alex Ruoff

9. Florida- Calathes is the charge in the Gators offense.  He has put his name in the draft, but has not signed an agent and should be back in Gainesville.  The addition of Georgetown transfer Vernon Macklin should give Billy Donovan the low post presence he lacked this past season.

Starters:
C- Vernon Macklin (Jr)
F- Dan Werner (Sr)
F- Alex Tyus (Jr)
G- Erving Walker (So)
G- Nick Calathes (Jr)

Bench: F- Chandler Parsons (Jr), G/F Ray Shipman (So), C Kenny Kadji (So), SG- Kenny Boynton (Fr #8), PF- Erik Murphy (Fr #39), PF- Deshawn Painter (Fr #52)

Gone:
G Walter Hodge

10. Villanova- The Wildcats lose their three starting forwards, but do return the best guard play in the country.  If Jay Wright can get his four top 31 recruits to contribute right away, Nova should once again be a factor on the national scene.

Starters:
F- Antonio Pena (Jr)
G- Reggie Redding (Sr)
G- Scottie Reynolds (Sr)
G- Corey Fisher (Jr)
G- Corey Stokes (Jr)

Bench: SF- Dominic Cheek (Fr #15), PG- Maalik Wayns (Fr #26), PF- Mouphtauo Yarou (Fr #28), PF- Isaiah Armwood (Fr #31)

Gone: F Dante Cunningham, F Shane Clark, F Dwayne Anderson

Honorable Mentions:
Ohio State- If B.J. Mullens didn’t turn pro, Buckeyes would be a top five team.
Syracuse- If Flynn, Devendorf, and Harris return, Cuse is a top two team.
Tennessee- Tyler Smith is expected to turn pro, but everyone else is back for the Vols.
Butler- Everyone is back, Bulldogs should be the elite of the mid-major teams.
Michigan- Harris and Sims should help the Wolverines take the next step.
Georgetown- Greg Monroe will lead the Hoyas who return four starters.
California- Return all their players under second year head coach Mike Montgomery.
Xavier- We’ll have to see how they respond without Sean Miller in charge.

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College Hoops 101

By: David K.

Welcome to a weekly article at thesportsbank.net where I will give you the 101 on what has happened in the week of college basketball and what is to come in the days ahead.  One week remaining in the season… what am I going to do with myself after next Monday?

Rewind
-First and foremost, I owe TSB.net’s Peter Christian an apology.  In our staff picks at the beginning of the season, Peter picked Villanova to make it to the Elite Eight, and I called him crazy.  Not only did ‘Nova exceed Peter’s expectations, but his boy Scottie Reynolds hit the game-winning shot with a half-second left in what will certainly be a NCAA Tournament highlight that we will all see over and over for the next fifty years.

In all actuality, the Pitt/Nova game probably never should have come down to the Reynolds’ game-winner.  I am not sure if Jay Wright or the inbounder (Reggie Redding) is to blame, but what a terrible decision made late in the game.  Why the Wildcats went for the home run inbounds pass while leading by two with 10.3 seconds left is baffling.  Throw it to your guard, have him get fouled, and go to the free throw line.  Instead, the Hail Mary is picked off; Pitt gets fouled and ties the game at the charity stripe.  I really like Wright and the call was gutsy, but back-fired worse than Happy Gilmore’s puck trick with the golf chick.

-If you watched the Michigan State Sweet 16 game, you probably saw about 613 cutaway shots of Tom Izzo’s wife, Lupe.  While Peter claims she looks like she belongs on an episode of The Sopranos, I cannot help but wonder if she even understands the game of basketball.  At the end of the game when things were very exciting, she sat there with a stoic look on her face as if she did not know what was going on.  Or maybe she has been injected with so much botox that she was trying to smile but was just unable to do so.  Good thing we will get to see 483 more shots of her during the Final Four.

-Big ups to Marquette’s Jerel McNeal who was named a second team All-American.  A well-deserved honor for McNeal and not one that I would have imagined at the beginning of the season.

-Seth Curry, the younger brother of Davidson’s Stephen Curry and nation’s leading scorer among freshman, has decided to transfer from Liberty to pursue opportunities to play against tougher competition.  Curry will likely end up at an ACC school, possibly Virginia Tech where his father played, but I still am going to send him pamphlets about how Marquette is such a fantastic college institution.  (UPDATE: Seth Curry has committed to Duke and will be eligible for the 2010-11 season.  And I just threw up in my mouth.)

-Ohio State freshman center B.J. Mullens has decided to turn pro.  DUMB.  Mullens was the Buckeyes’ sixth man and while he showed steady improvement throughout the season, he is nowhere near ready to contribute in the association.  He still has plenty of potential and is an athletic seven-footer which should still make him a late-lottery/mid first round pick.  If Mullens would have stayed in school, The Ohio State likely would have been a top ten team next season.  The only plus to Mullens’ decision is that he won’t end up on my or Peter’s most hated players in college basketball list next season because he looks like a real doofus and has an Adam Morrison-like porn stache going on.

Fast Forward
NIT Championship, Thursday (6:00)
The NIT Final Four features Baylor vs. San Diego State and Penn State vs. Notre Dame.  I’ll take San Diego State vs. Notre Dame in the title game with the Aztecs taking down the Irish to claim the irrelevant championship.

North Carolina vs. Villanova, Saturday
UNC was my and pretty much everybody else’s pre-season pick to roll all the way to the National Championship, but people cooled off when they actually lost a couple games during conference play.  As much as I enjoy watching Nova and would love to see a Big East team in the Finals, I just don’t think they can knock off the Heels with how dominant Carolina was against Gonzaga and Oklahoma.  UNC is just too big and strong inside with running out different bodies down low.  Nova’s guards will need to play out of their mind for the Cats to pull off the upset.
Prediction: UNC 89, Villanova 76

UConn vs. Michigan State, Saturday
I am not going to lie, as much as I dislike Michigan State, they might be the perfect team to take down a UConn sqaud that has saved its best ball for the tourney.  Sparty has the depth and size inside to compete with Hasheem Thabeet and Jeff Adrien and the quickness in their guard play to hang with A.J. Price and Kemba Walker.  The x-factor (pardon the cliche) will be the match-up between the Huskies’ Stanley Robinson and State’s Raymar Morgan.  Then again, if Thabeet gets into early foul trouble, the Spartans could run UConn right out of the arena just like they did to Louisville.  Oh, and Sparty is playing in their backyard in Detroit.
Prediction: Michigan State 73, UConn 65

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The Drive to 225
My drive for watching 225 college basketball games this season has already been completed.  Like I predicted, the dream of reaching 300 was aiming a bit too high.  I’ll settle with around 275.

Games watched through 3/22: 270

Games watched this past week: 14
Davidson at St. Mary’s
Penn State at Florida
Kentucky at Notre Dame
UConn vs. Purdue
Memphis vs. Missouri
Pitt vs. Xavier
Villanova vs. Duke
Syracuse vs. Oklahoma
Louisville vs. Arizona
Kansas vs. Michigan State
UConn vs. Missouri
Villanova vs. Pitt
Louisville vs. Michigan State
North Carolina vs. Oklahoma

East Regional Bracket Breakdown

By: David K.

Overview: What stands out most about this regional, is the massive home-court advantage for (2) Duke and (3) Villanova.  You pretty much write in each team into the Sweet 16 since the Dukies play in North Carolina and Nova is in their home city of Philadelphia.  With Pittsburgh being the one seed, this is a fairly top heavy bracket.

Elite Eight Prediction: (1) Pitt beats (3) Villanova

Yes, my second all Big East Elite 8 match-up.  I have Pitt winning the entire tournament and have been on that bandwagon for the past few weeks.  The only thing that will stop them is if DeJuan Blair gets into foul trouble.  Pitt is 0-4 when Blair fouls out of a game.  Fortunately for them, there really aren’t a lot of big guys who will get in his way in this bracket.  Villanova has the best guard play in the country with Scottie Reynolds and the Corey’s (Fisher and Stokes.)  They go eight deep and their Sweet 16 match-up with Duke should be an absolute shoot-out.

Sleeper: (9) Tennessee

I like this Tennessee team, and not just because of Wayne Chism’s headband.  When their offense is clicking, they can put up points with any team in the country.  They tend to play out of control too often, but have the athletes and quickness to possibly upset Pitt in the second round.

Early Exit: (6) UCLA

The Bruins run of three straight trips to the Final Four will come to an end this year.  UCLA has a tough first round match-up against VCU who has experience in knocking off a major program two years when they upset Duke in the first round.  VCU’s point guard is Eric Maynor who will be a mid-first round pick and led VCU in that upset of Duke.  Even if UCLA escapes out of the first round, they get Villanova in their home city.  I am guessing there will not be a lot of Bruin backers making the long trip from Cali to Philly.

Most Intriguing First Round Match-Up: (7) Texas vs. (10) Minnesota

The Longhorns were a team I was very high on early in the season.  But A.J. Abrams has not been able to find his shooting touch and it has really hurt the Horns.  Minnesota surprised a lot of teams when they started the season 16-1.  But the Gophs finished the year 6-9 and were lucky to land a spot in the Big Dance.  Minnesota is at their best when their defense is suffocating and they are very deliberate on the offensive end (aka typical boring Big Ten ball.)  I think Texas wins if Abrams is able to find his stroke early