Thursday, November 29, 2007

Thoughts on the '07-'08 Season

So I've now been able to watch just about every legitimate team out there, and have seen pretty much every star-in-the-making play. Some thoughts thus far:

- Duke and Michigan State are both loaded again. And with both teams getting very significant contributions from freshman, they can only get better. MSU is back to there old ways - tough defense, rebound, and push. They have two quick-as-lighting PG's (Travis Walton and Kalin Lucas) that have allowed Drew Neitzel to play off the ball, where he is more effective. Goran Suton leads a front line that is as big, strong, and aggressive as any that Tom Izzo has had. And Raymarr Morgan is turning into a star - he reminds me alot of Caron Butler.
Coach K has Duke running a lot more than last year after coaching with the Suns Mike D'Antoni over the summer. They also are changing up defenses more often - pressing and even running a 2-3 zone at times. They have so many weapons - Kyle Singler, Demarcus Nelson, Gerald Henderson, Jon Scheyer can all carry the Devils on a given night. Once they figure out that Nolan Smith is so much better than Greg Paulus, watch out.

- This crop of freshman is as deep as any that I can remember. Everyone knows the big names - OJ Mayo, Derrick Rose, Eric Gordon, Kevin Love, Michael Beasley, Kosta Koufos, Singler - but some guys have slid in under the radar and are playing great.
JJ Hickson - NC State: Although he has been coming off the bench, Hickson leads the Wolfpack in scoring and rebounding at 19 and 9 per. Also averages 2.5 bpg while shooting 73% from the floor. Saw him play against MSU last night, and he's long, quick and athletic. Think Hakim Warrick.
Jonny Flynn and Donte Greene - Syracuse: Flynn (12.5ppg, 6.5apg, 41% 3pt, 3:1 a/to) and Greene (20.5ppg, 8.2rpg, 2.5bpg) have put up gaudy numbers so far, but are both playing a ton of minutes for a thin Syracuse team, which could hurt them tournament time.
DeAndre Jordan - Texas A&M: Averaging 9ppg and 7.5rpg (in only 20 minutes per) aren't incredible numbers, but shooting 86% from the field through seven games is. Gives this very balanced team an option inside when teams collapse on Joseph Jones. Athletic 7-footer with long arms, but not a shot blocker yet.

-Everyone knows Gonzaga, Davidson, Butler, and Southern Illinois at the point. But who other mid-majors to watch out for?
Xavier 5-1: Very balanced squad with top 6 all averaging double figures. Very experienced with four seniors starting (three of whom were on the 2004 team that went to the elite 8). Beat good Indiana team by 15 on a neutral court.
Miami-(Ohio) 5-2: Gave Xavier their only loss, but has been beaten by Dayton and USC (by a combined 5 points). Led my Michael Bramos (24ppg, 46% 3pt) and Tim Kolvitz (17ppg, 7rpg, 4apg), get a big test against Louisville Saturday.
George Mason 5-1: Knocked off Kansas State and South Carolina, and almost beat Villanova in the Old Spice classic. Another senior laden squad led by forward Will Thomas (17 and 11 per). Playing in a tough CAA will help come tournament time.

-Baylor is finally relevant again after starting the season 5-0, which included winning in the 2007 Paradise Jam with victories over Witchita State, Notre Dame, and Winthrop. Baylor is a very balanced team this year (seven players averaging between 7 and 13 ppg, nine players between 17 and 29 mpg this year). Alot of very solid juniors and seniors, and a star-in-the-making freshman LaceDarius Dunn (12ppg and 5 rpg in 20 mpg, but only 3 assists all year), Baylor should make some noise in the Big 12 this season. First real test comes against Washington State on Friday. Great to see the program back up and running after the tragedy of Patrick Dennehy's murder, and former coach Dave Bliss' indescretions. Continue reading...

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

More on State of Sports: The Real Homecoming King

This happened a couple months ago, but here is a great article about some high school football players that really get it. Continue reading...

R.I.P. Sean Taylor

Before I get started here, let me just say that the death of Sean Taylor is a tragedy. He was such a promising young man with such an incredible future in front of him. But there have been some things really bothering me about this whole situation. First of all, murders such as this take place all over the country, on a daily basis. For black men between 15-24 years old, homicide is the leading cause of death. This kind of thing happens every day, but why does it take an athlete as great as Sean Taylor for so many in this country to see and feel this kind of pain? Not even when Darrent Williams was killed was there this big of a reaction. My buddy Ross, who happens to hail from DC, wrote a great piece on why this happens for

Now it could be that I am seeing this big of a reaction because I am currently living in DC, and the DC residents are the most devoted fans in the NFL, or it could be that Taylor was killed for the simple fact that he was home and trying to protect what was his when someone broke in, but regardless of the reason, I sincerely hope that it can affect some kind of change. I am not a person that believes that everything happens for a reason, but I am a firm believer in making the best out of any situation you a given. If Sean Taylor's death could lead to some type of change in our society, and out of this tragedy, families around the country can avoid having to lay their loved ones in the ground, then Taylor's death is not 'all for naught', so to speak. What kind of change? I don't know. But there are plenty of elected individuals in the Redskins home city alot smarter than I am that can make this kind of change. I don't want to get too political here because I believe the main purpose of sports is to take us away from the rigors and stresses of the real world, but maybe, just maybe, the murder of someone so famous can make some of these lawmakers realize there is so much that we need to fix in our own country.

Just to reiterate, Sean Taylor's passing is a tragedy, for both him and the NFL. Here was a guy who was a poster boy for troubled, young NFL stars. In his first two years, he was arrested and charged twice (once for brandishing a gun in a fight, and once for drunk driving), was fined seven times for late hits, and was ejected and fined for spitting in the face of Michael Pittman of the Buccaneers in a playoff game. But he had turned it all around. He had just made a his first Pro Bowl. He had an 18 month daughter that changed his life. He was the first to practice, and the last to leave. He turned himself into a role model for guys like Pacman Jones and Chris Henry, proof that anyone could turn it around and become the most beloved person on the most beloved team in our nation's capital. This kind of violence is such a waste - a waste of a great man and talented individual.

RIP Sean Taylor #21 Continue reading...

Monday, November 26, 2007

More on State of Sports: KG and Brett Farve

KG and Brett Farve are two of my favorite athletes of all-time that have never played for a team of mine. I'm sure that I'm not the only sports fan out there that can say that. Both of them play with such passion and heart, care so much about winning, and have had a resurgence in their careers this year.

Let's start with Farve. After the two worst seasons of his career, with everyone calling for his retirement, the ageless Farve is on his way to having his best year in 2007. With five games left, Farve has already thrown for 3,356 yards and 22 TD's. He has completed 68.4% of his passes, and has a 101.5 passer rating, both of which will be the highest he has recorded during a season. He has set numerous career passing records this year, and he has done all this with a running game that was essentially non-existent until the last two week. The Packers are currently sitting at 10-1, tied for the NFC lead with the Cowboys (whom they play Thursday) which means we will get to see Brett Farve playing in the playoffs again, and if it wasn't for Tom Brady, he would probably be a favorite for the MVP award.

At 38 years old, Farve still plays like he's a 25. The emotion is still there. The youthful exuberance is still there. That cannon arm is still there, slinging the ball all over the field. But the best part about watching him play is just seeing how much he loves being on a football field. He is always smiling, always looks like he's having the time of his life. It's great seeing Farve back on top.

KG is just as good of a story. After toiling in Minnesota for 12 years and never receiving the help he needed, KG got traded to the Celtics and teamed with two perennial all-stars in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, making Boston the immediate favorite to win the East. KG is just like Farve in that all he cares about is winning. Night in and night out he leaves everything he has on the floor. If you watched any of his first 12 games this season, it looked like he was playing in game 7 of the NBA finals. I remember watching them play Denver during the third of the season where Boston scored 77 points in the first half and had the game won by midway through the second quarter. But with three minutes left, up by 30, they showed Garnett on the bench, waving a towel, yelling after some Boston scrub got an and-1 with his trademark scowl. Even at the end of last season, where Minnesota clearly was not going to make the playoffs and knowing that Kevin Durant and Greg Oden were going to be available in the draft, KG still played to win every time he stepped n the floor. How can you not love watching a guy like that play? How can you not root for a guy like that to succeed, especially after such a horrible situation he was in with the T-wolves? If your his teammate, how can you not match that effort and intensity every night?

The NBA has suffered from the image that noone plays hard until the playoffs. They need more players like Kevin Garnett. Continue reading...

State of Sports

I love sports. Everything about them. The competition. The brotherhood within a team, and within the fans of teams. The ecstasy and jubilation that comes with a big win. The depression that comes with a crushing defeat. Huge rivalries. The history. Arguing what player or team is better. Fantasy sports. Writing about them.

But in the last few months, all the headlines I've seen have started to turn my stomach. Barry Bonds breaking the home-run record, then getting indicted. The A-Rod and Kobe soap operas. Steroids and HGH in baseball (and football, and the Olympics), making me question every time an athlete in these sports does something spectacular. Floyd Landis and cycling blood-doping. Skyrocketing salaries. Hockey losing a season to a strike. Michael Vick, Chris Henry, Tank Johnson, Travis Henry, Pacman Jones, and every other football player that can't stay out of cuffs. The Patriots spying scandal. Reggie Bush's marketing deal in college. Mike Tyson's return to prison. Isaiah Thomas harassing his female workers. Spoiled NBA players (i.e. Stephon Marbury not playing because the Knicks want to buyout his contract). Blatant and widespread tanking in the NBA. Eddie Griffin's alcoholism and drunk-driving death. And that's just what I came up with off the top of my head in the two minutes since I decided to write this.

My buddy Joe wrote a blog about much he hates the news these days because there is never anything positive talked about, and some times I feel like my morning Sportscenter viewings are getting to that same point. I have to go through 20 minutes of crap before I can get to some good old highlights. So, for my own sanity, I've decided to make some posts about the great stories in sports.

The Atlantic Sun Conference:
Let's go smallest to biggest. Belmont, last year's A-Sun tourney team, knocks off Cincinati. Mercer goes to into the Galen Center and knocks off USC and all-world recruit OJ Mayo 96-81. And my favorite: Garnder-Webb. A little school in North Carolina with a roster made up of three guys from Australia and two from Africa, whose best player walked-on after recieving only one scholarship offer from Eastern Illinois (by the way, he was first team all-state in Indiana his senior with Mike Conley Jr., Greg Oden, Eric Gordon, and I believe Luke Harangody from Notre Dame), and whose coach spent numerous years at a little school in Kentucky dreaming of coaching in Rupp arena. GW goes into Rupp on the opening night of the Coaches vs. Cancer classic and not only beats Big Blue, manhandles them. They scored the first 14 points of the game and never lead by less than 7.

Part of the reason I love college basketball is when the little guys knock of the big guys like this. You almost never see upsets of this caliber in other sports. When you compare the USC and Kentucky upsets to the Michigan loss to Appalachain State in college football, the USC and Kentucky losses are worse. Neither of these teams were good last year, whereas Appalachain State were defending national champions. USC and Kentucky were both blown out, as opposed to Michigan, who had the game-winning field goal blocked at the end of regulation. And the Michigan loss garnered ten times a much national attention and media coverage as either of the basketball upsets.

Most players on these low D1 teams (and for D2 and D3 teams) play strictly for the love of the game, in all sports really. These aren't the guys that are leaving college early or are strictly playing for guaranteed contracts/gold medals. These aren't the guys that get recognized everywhere on campus, are asked for autographs everywhere they go, or are given grades because they are athletes. They are true student-athletes. Kids that play through the same amount of pain, work just as hard in-season and during the off-season, and put themselves through all of that just because they love their sport. While guys like Derrick Rose or Pat White will 'Wow' you with their ability and are really just a joy to watch play, you have to give the utmost respect to the thousands of athletes that do it strictly for the love of their respective game. Continue reading...

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Top 25 - 11/18

1. Memphis: 4-0
CDR is as good as advertised, and Derrick Rose as already shown he can take and make big shots.

2. North Carolina: 2-0
Held off a good Davidson team. Sophomore Wayne Ellington has looked good in the early season.

3. UCLA: 3-0
Even without Darren Collison, UCLA's defense has been impressive, allowing just 44ppg.

4. Kansas: 3-0
Getting Brandon Rush back helps. Losing Sherron Collins hurts.

5. Georgetown: 2-0
Dismantling of Michigan was impressive, but 15 point win over William and Mary was closer than the final score said.

6. Louisville: 2-0
Terrence Williams showcased his all-around talents in posting the third triple double in Louisville history.

7. Tennessee: 3-0
Four players averaging double figures. Chris Lofton is not one of them. Have not looked dominating.

8. Indiana: 2-0
Eric Gordon has been sensational, following up his record 33 points debut with 21 vs. Longwood.

9. Michigan State: 2-0
Raymarr Morgan may be the best sophomore in the country.

10. Washington State: 3-0
Have overcome slow starts in two of the three victories.

11. Marquette: 2-0
Two lackluster wins over two very mediocre opponents.

12. Oregon: 4-0
Even with the loss of Aaron Brooks, Oregon has been putting up 90ppg.

13. Duke: 2-0
Freshman Kyle Singler can do it all. Can Jon Scheyer turn into an elite ACC player.

14. Texas: 3-0
AJ Abrams and DJ Augustin provide a potent backcourt.

15. Gonzaga: 3-0
Freshman Austin Daye is for real, but Gonzaga's success still hinges on Heytvelt's return.

16. Pittsburgh: 4-0
Sam Young is the next in line of dominant Pitt big man.

17. Texas A&M: 4-0
Wins include UTEP and Oral Roberts, two tough teams. Real tests come in the next three games - Alabama, Washington, Arizona.

18. Kansas State: 3-0
Michael Beasley's first three games: 34 and 22, 30 and 14, 28 and 22. When this team gets fully healthy, watch out.

19. Southern Illinois: 1-0
As always, SIU's defense is practically impenetrable.

20. USC: 2-1
Loss to Mercer was embarassing, but OJ Mayo and Taj Gibson are both for real.

21. Syracuse: 3-0
Three not-so-impressive wins thus far, but Jonny Flynn and Donte Green are both legit, and Paul Harris can do it all.

22. Villanova: 2-0
Came back to knock off a solid Bucknell team. Shane Clark has looked impressive early-on.

23. Florida: 4-0
Looks like Billy Donovan knew what he was doing in coming back. Great crop of freshman, and a bunch of returners hungry to prove that Florida still has some talent.

24. Virginia: 3-0
Looks like Senior Sean Singletary is out to prove something.

t25. Davidson: 1-1
If Stephon Curry's wrist injury is serious, Davidson's season could be in jeopardy.

t25. Connecticut: 3-1
Looked impressive in the loss to Memphis. Need more post consistency.

Notes - Arizona looks like they are heading for another underachieving year. Winthrop stays undefeated by knocking off Georgia Tech, handing the Jackets there second loss. North Carolina State, Stanford, Kentuck all got upset. Watch out for Notre Dame - not a lot of star power, but a lot of guys that can flat out play. Continue reading...

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Some thoughts on the UConn team thus far

What a game Friday night between Memphis and UConn. Helluva performance by both teams. After getting down 10-0 and 20-5 in the opening minutes, UConn, led by AJ Price fought all the way back to take the lead heading into halftime. Price and Jerome Dyson both looked very good, getting into the lane whenever they wanted and combining for 40 points and 23 FT attempts. Biggest problem for UConn was that there little guards (Price, Dyson, Doug Wiggins, and Craig Austrie) couldn't handle the strength of Derrick Rose and Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Stanley Robinson was not quick enough to stay in front of either of them. Granted, both are phenomenal offensive players, but they really exposed a weakness in UConn's defense. If Marcus Johnson was still in Storrs, things could have been different.

But enough of the bad stuff. UConn has now played four games, and this is how things look thus far. The Huskies showed a ton of heart battling back against Memphis. The one thing that last night proved is that UConn is going to fight and scrap in every game they play. They have a ton of athletes and guys that make plays, but are still raw. Dyson and Price are both very quick and can get in the lane. They are going to have to carry alot of the offensive load for UConn, especially in UConn's get-out-and-run style offense. Jeff Adrien is his playing his usual bullbog style, and has added a nice little turn around jumper and baby hook to his repetoire. Stanley Robinson is still a little too streaky (Calhoun himself said that the Morgan St. game was the worst game he's ever played and the Buffalo game was the best he's ever played). Last season homesickness really distracted him, but by the looks of it he has gotten over it. He is making the athletic plays UConn needs him to make, and he should thrive under this UConn style. Hasheem Thabeet is still incredibly raw (after watching the Memphis, my buddy Elias said "Thabeet looks like the players in Space Jam after the Monstars stole their talent). He still has bricks for hands, although he seems to be finishing better downlow, but to take it to the next level he needs to be stronger finishing aka someone 7'3" should never lay a ball up, he needs to be dunking on people left and right. Also, he, along with the UConn team in general, is hitting free throws this year. Gavin Edwards has looked promising thus far - getting rebounds and garbage points. He needs to be Boone to Thabeet's Okafor from 2004. If Wiggins and Austrie can knock three's consistently, UConn is going to be a dangerous team.

Friday night UConn proved they can play with anyone in the country. The Morgan St. game showed that they can be beaten by anyone. Bottom line - UConn is still a middle of the pack Big East team, but they are going to be a lot of fun to watch. Continue reading...

Friday, November 16, 2007

Enough A-Rod

I want to love A-Rod. I really do. As a die-hard Yankee I would love to be able to hold A-Rod as near and dear to my heart as I hold Bernie, or Paulie O'Neill, or Tino, or Mo, or Jeter, etc. I'm sure most of Yankee fans would agree. I mean christ, the guy has one of the greatest offensive seasons of all-time last year - .314, 54 HR's, 156 RBI's. And every time I think he's about to turn that corner and become another in the long line of heroes in pinstripes, he does something to mess it up - and usually messes up in the worst possible way. Let me take you through this most recent example.

After a terrible (by his standards) 2006 campaign that culminated with him being dropped to eighth in the Yankees line up in the playoffs, he wins back most in 2007 getting countless big hits late in games, even outperforming Mr. November Derek Jeter in the first round loss to Cleveland. Primed for a huge offer from the Yankees (extending his contract to 10 years, $295 million), not only does he not accept the offer, he refuses a face-to-face meeting with the Yankee brass. Then to top it all off, he announces that he is opting out of his contract - during the Red Sox World Series-clinching victory in Game Four.

Granted, the timing was absolutely horrendous for when he announced his decision (I still think it was mostly Scott Boras calling the shots at this point), but I actually respected him for this decision. He got treated terribly in New York for two of the four seasons he was there. I really believed that he opted out because he wanted out of New York - he wanted to give a big Eff You to all the fans that booed him. And as much as it would have sucked to lose a guy who in all-likelihood will go down as one of the five best baseball players of all-time, I had to give respect to the man for turning down what was obviously going to be the most money he gets offered for a chance to play somewhere he would be happy and loved. And you couldn't even say he didn't care about winning, because if he ended up in a place like Anaheim or L.A., he would have had just as good of a shot to win a World Series as if he stay in New York.

But lo-and-behold, that too was not the case. A-Rod, listening to the advice of Scott Boras, thought he could get a contract worth $350 million. Because the $295 million that the Yankees would have given him was not enough, and the $169 million from the Texas contract he had already earned was not enough, and the countless millions he had earned from endorsements was not enough. His image and reputation have been dragged through the mud so extensively in the last 18 days that he will likely never recover. Every stadium he plays at this season, he will get booed.

The only thing that is giving him the benefit of the doubt in my mind is that HE contacted the Yankees - without Boras. He went to Tampa, and agreed to the outline of the deal that they would have offered him, minus the $20 million or so that the Rangers would have paid. He was scheduled to make $27 million each of the last three years of his previous contract, so essentially what he is signing is just an extension - which is probably fair. He is also negotiating for a portion of the revenue off of his pursuit of Bonds' record - again, probably fair.

Since I heard the first rumors about A-Rod going to Tampa to talk to the Steinbrenners face-to-face, I have been trying to decide who I feel A-Rod really is. I've widdled it down to two possible answers. Either A-Rod really does care about winning, and since the day he was drafted just has been getting bad advice from the wrong people, but until this past week just didn't have the backbone to say enough is enough, I'm doing this my way. Or he really is the greedy, selfish, money-hungry brat that doesn't care about winning, but is extremely savvy and street smart and has used these last few months to convince the baseball world Borad has taken advantage of him.

I really hope he's not the latter. Continue reading...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Preseason All-american Teams

Player of the Year: Tyler Hansbrough, UNC

First Team:
G - Chris Lofton, Tennessee
G - Darren Collison, UCLA
C - Tyler Hansbrough, UNC
F - DJ White, Indiana
F - Brandon Rush, Kansas

Second Team:
G - Drew Neitzel, Michigan State
G - DJ Augustin, Texas
C - Roy Hibbert, Georgetown
F - Chris Douglas-Roberts
F - Derrick Low, Washington State

Third Team:
G - Ty Lawson, UNC
G - Stephen Curry, Davidson
G - Dominic James, Marquette
F - Terrence Williams, Louisville
F - Chase Budinger, Arizona

Freshman All-america:
G - Derrick Rose, Memphis
G - OJ Mayo, USC
G - Eric Gordon, Indiana
C - Kevin Love, UCLA
F - Michael Beasley, Kansas State Continue reading...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

College Basketball 2007 - My Preseason Top 25

Seeing as it's been almost a month since I have made a post, and I've overcome the departure of Joe Torre and the outcome of the World Series, which as a Yankee fan I refuse to truly acknowledge, I've decided to go back to what this blog started with - College Basketball, my true love. One thing I want to note, which Andy Katz pointed out in an article on ESPN today, is that their is no face of College Basketball this year. No Joakim Noah's, JJ Redick's, or Emeka Okafor's. No Greg Oden's, Kevin Durant's, or Carmelo Anthony's. No Uconn's or Duke's or North Carolina's loaded with first round draft picks.

And I love it. Of course, you have your four or five favorites, but everything else is so wide open. Can OJ Mayo do what Melo did with Syracuse in 2004? Are Washington State, Oregon, and Texas A&M for real? What about Davidson, Gonzaga and Southern Illinois? Will Duke and Uconn return to elite status?

Now that's out of the way, here is how I feel the top 25 teams in basketball should be ranked:

Tier 1

1.) Memphis
Biggest Pluses: Elite Eight team last year gets the nod at the top spot because this team didn't lose anyone and brings in possibly the best freshman in the country in Derrick Rose. One of the deepest teams in the country (last year 9 guys averaged over 10 minutes a game) plays right into the aggressive, uptempo style of John Calipari. Adding Derrick Rose to the likes of Chris Douglas-Roberts, Jeremy Hunt, and Antonio Anderson gives Memphis one of, if not the best backcourt in the country. With Joey Dorsey and Robert Dozier providing a more than adequate interior presence, I think Memphis is the team to beat this year.

Biggest Questions: With the addition of a guy like Derrick Rose, will there be enough shots to go around, and will established guys like Willie Kemp, Douglas-Roberts, and Hunt be willing to sacrifice shots and playing time to the rookie? Will Memphis be ready after playing the soft Conference USA schedule (although they do have early season non-conference games against Georgetown, Arizona, and USC and at Cincinati and Coaches Vs. Cancer)?

2.) North Carolina
Biggest Pluses: Despite losing Reyshawn Terry and Brandon Wright, UNC is still loaded. I love Tyler Hansbrough's game. He's a bulldog - always playing as hard a possible. Real throw back guy, reminds me of a Mark Madsen with talent. Ty Lawson is the quickest player end-to-end in the country, which allows UNC to run all day. The loss of Wright hurts, but look for Deon Thompson, one of the best players you've never heard of, to have a breakout year. Sophomore Wayne Ellington is another guy who could become a star this year in the backcourt, while Marcus Ginyard, Danny Green, Bobby Frasor, and Quentin Thomas are all solid players who should provide quality minutes. Another very deep team.

Biggest Questions: Brandon Wright got so many easy dunks last year by outrunning opponent's big guys. Can the bigs this year fill that void?

3.) UCLA
Biggest Pluses: The Bruins have a loaded front court this year. Luc Mbah a Moute, Lorenzo Mata (who doubles has the ugliest player in the country), and Alfred Aboya combined with the addition of freshman sensation Kevin Love gives UCLA a very deep, very talented front court. Darren Collinson is the best point guard in the country, a great playmaker on both ends of the floor. Josh Shipp is very solid as a slasher, but lost his jump shot in conference play last year (21% from 3 in conference). Look for Shipp to step into the void left by Aaron Afflalo's graduation. Chace Stanback, high school teammate of Josh Shipp, looks to be another solid recruit for Ben Howland.

Biggest Questions: Young and thin at the guard and wing spots behind Shipp and Collison, although with Ben Howland's grind it out, Big East-style of play, depth is not as important as it is for a team like North Carolina. Will Josh Shipp turn into the go-to guy everyone thought he would be coming out of high school?

4.) Kansas
Biggest Pluses: Although losing Julian Wright to the draft hurts, the Jayhawks still return a very talented and balanced team. Brandon Rush is as talented as anyone in the country on the wing, but very inconsistent. He can shoot, defend, and get to the rim, but needs to shed his tendency to defer to teammates and become the go-to-guy. Darrell Arthur should turn into one of the dominant centers in the Big 12 after averaging almost 10 ppg off the bench as a freshman, and look for senior Darnell Jackson, high school teammate to Shelden Williams, to have a big year stepping into the minutes vacated by Wright. Put those three together with Sasha Kaun and McDonalds All-American Cole Aldrich and your looking at a formidable front line. Mario Chalmers is one of the Big 12's best point guards and playmakers, and Russell Robinson is a more-than-capable backup. The wild card on this team is Sherron Collins. Collins, a former McDonalds All-American out of Chicago's Crane High (Will Bynum), is an explosive scoring guard, but had troubles with his weight as a freshman. If he's in shape, he's a force off the bench.

Biggest Questions:
Will Brandon Rush become a star, or will he follow the path of brothers JaRon and Kareem? Is Sherron Collins in shape? They have centers, but can Darnell Jackson turn into an upper-echelon power forward?

5.) Georgetown
Biggest Pluses: John Thompson III brings back alot of talent, depth and versatility this year, which plays right into his Princeton-style offense. Roy Hibbert is very effective on the block with a variety of jump hooks and drop step moves. Great combo of power and finesse, and his improved jump shot makes him into an all-american. Thompson is also very good at getting him into a position on the court where all he needs to do is hold a seal and finish. The rest of their team is very versatile. DaJuan Summers and Patrick Ewing Jr. are both long and athletic, have a jump shot, and can play anywhere from the off-guard to center. Jonathon Wallace and Jesse Sapp are both solid playmakers who can find assists as well as finish. Deep bench with freshman Chris Wright and Austin Freeman and sophomores Jeremiah Rivers and Macklin.
Biggest Questions:
Alot of role players on this team. With the loss of Jeff Green, who is going to take the big shot for them? Will Hibbert become more athletic, or still the slowest guy in the Big East? More responsibility on the guards to run the offense smoothly without Jeff Green in there.

Tier 2

6.) Tennessee
Chris Lofton is as good a scorer as there is in the country. JaJuan Summers is one of the most underrated guards in the country. Loaded freshman class last year (Wayne Chism, Duke Crews, Ramar Smith) can only get better.

7.) Louisville
Typical Rick Pitino squad. Lots of athletes, aggressive defense, hit the boards. Terrence Williams is a great playmaker on the wing - can score and find assists. Edgar Sosa and Derrick Caracter are both primed for big sophomore years.

8.) Indiana
DJ White is as good on the block as anyone in the Big Ten. Armon Bassett and A.J. Ratliff are both great shooters, and should provide some experience and leadership for a young, promising crop of freshman - headlined by Eric Gordon.

9.) Marquette
Great backcourt led by Dominic James, Wesley Matthews, Jerel McNeal and super-sub David Cubillan. Ousemane Barro is underrated as a center, especially defensively, and Dan Fitzgerald and Lazar Hayward anchor a perimeter-oriented frontline.

10.) Michigan State
This team lives and dies with Drew Neitzel, maybe the most clutch shooter in the country. Raymar Morgan and Goran Suton the best of the rest of the returners. As Usual, Tom Izzo brings in a deep and talented recruiting class, headlined by scoring guard Chris Allen.

Best of the Rest

11.) Washington State - Can Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver keep this team winning in a loaded Pac-10.
12.) USC - Lost alot to the draft, but bring in OJ Mayo.
13.) Oregon - Losing Aaron Brooks hurts, but Tajuan Porter and Malik Hairston should keep them competitive.
14.) Gonzaga - Seaosn hinges on effectiveness of Josh Heytvelt upon his return from suspension.
15.) Duke - Kyle Singler leads another strong Coach K recruiting class.
16.) Texas - Won't be the same team without Kevin Durant, but look for a huge year out of DJ Augustin, given he stays in shape.
17.) Arizona - When will Lute Olson return? Another talented team, but can they avoid underachieving like so many recent Wildcat teams?
18.) Pittsburgh - Atypical Pitt team - guard heavy. Still going to be tough to play against.
19.) Southern Illinois - Chris Lowery has built a great program at SIU. Look for them to defend their way to another MVC title.
20.) Davidson - Tough non-conference schedule early will test Stephen Curry and the Wildcats.
21.) Villanova - Scottie Reynolds is the real deal, but there isn't much else on the Nova roster.
22.) Texas A&M - No Billy Gillespie and no Acie Law this year, but there is still alot of talent on their roster.
23.) Ohio State - Losing three first-rounders hurts, but Kosta Koufos is for real, and Jamar Butler and David Lighty are both underrated players.
24.) Kansas State - Michael Beasley could be this year's Kevin Durant.
25.) Connecticut - Had to put my Huskies in there. Continue reading...