Tuesday, September 30, 2008

September Madness

OK, so maybe what is happening to our economy isn't something to be joking about right now, but this is pretty clever (huge H/T to Andy at the Bi-Monthly Blog for this one).

So, without further ado, here is the September Madness bracket:
I'm going to step away from basketball for a second here.

I wish I had some witty remark about this, but to be honest, this whole situation is pretty scary - but at the same time fascinating in that rubber-necking, slowing-down-to-see-the-accident kind of way. I mean, we are living through an event right now that is going to change the way the world's economy runs. This is something that will be taught in econ classes (I was an econ major FYI) and history classes for as long as there is schooling. I like to keep this blog as apolitical as possible, but quickly here are my thoughts on the bail out: our economy is most likely going to recover, even if it takes a few years of living a much more modest life, but this collapse of the economy puts a stamp on what has probably been the worst president and administration in the history of the United States. I mean, Bush wants to be the next baseball commissioner. Really? Continue reading...

Monday, September 29, 2008

Georgetown: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Preview: 28-6, 15-3 Big East (1st)

Key Losses: Roy Hibbert (13.4 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 2.2 bpg), Jonathon Wallace (10.7 ppg, 2.4 apg), Patrick Ewing, Jr (6.1 ppg, 4.2 rpg)

Key Returnees: DaJuan Summers (11.1 ppg, 5.4 rpg), Austin Freeman (9.1 ppg), Jessie Sapp (9.7 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Newcomers: Greg Monroe, Henry Sims, Jason Clark

Georgetown was the class of the Big East the last two years, but losing three seniors that were key to the success of the Princeton offense is really going to hurt. The biggest (literally and figuratively) is Roy Hibbert. People underestimate how important this guy was to that offense. He could hit a 15 footer, he was darn near automatic when he got the ball on the block, and he was a very good passer. Simply put, Hibbert was the ideal center for the system Georgetown ran.

Georgetown does return a lot of talented players, however, especially in their back court. Chris Wright was a McDonald's all-american coming out of Washington, DC, but he was slowed during his freshman year due to a foot injury. But he is a lighting quick, play making point guard that also is an above average shooter. Austin Freeman, another Mickey D's all-american, is a great complement to Wright. At 6'4", 240 lb, he is an excellent shooter, but is big and strong and more than capable of finishing in the paint. Expect big years out of both sophomores. Jessie Sapp also returns for Georgetown. Sapp is an NYC kid with a bit of streetball style in his game, but he is also a pretty solid all-around player. He can hit the three, can get to the rim off the dribble, and is also probably Georgetown's best perimeter defender (he led the team in steals last year). Freshman Jason Clark, a top 100 recruit, should also see a lot of time off the bench.

The front court is a different story. DaJuan Summers is the only returner with significant experience. Summers is a guy who has never really lived up to his potential. He is a big, strong, athletic combo forward (6'8", 236 lb) that can score down low, but also has some perimeter skills. But he has been very inconsistent through out his career, including last season. The Hoyas also add two talented freshman to their front court. Greg Monroe could be the best freshman in the Big east next season. He is 6'10" and long, but he also has outstanding perimeter skills. He can hit three's, he can put the ball on the floor and blow by defenders, and he is an outstanding passer. He has a tendency to get out hustled on defense and on rebounds, but his talent is undeniable (he skill set has drawn comparisons to former Hoya Jeff Green, but his attitude and demeanor is closer DaJuan Summers). The other freshman is Henry Sims. He is 6'10" with long arms, but right now he is more of an athlete than a basketball player. He has gotten rave reviews for his motor, however, meaning that he is probably going to be an excellent rebounder and defender inside for Georgetown.

Outlook: There is no question the Hoyas have talent on their roster this year, but they do have some other questions marks. The first is their depth. Not only did they lose the seniors, but Jeremiah Rivers and Vernon Macklin, two key role players, both decided to transfer out of the program, meaning that they won't have the depth that they have had in previous years. They also don't look to be as tough defensively as they have in the past. But the biggest concern I have is with the guys on their roster. Are they actually best-suited for running a Princeton offense? With quick, talented guards like Wright and Sapp, and some athletic bigs that can run the floor like Summers, Monroe, and Sims, wouldn't they be better suited to a fast paced style? I still think that they will be one of the better teams in the Big East, but this year that could mean they finish in eighth place.
Continue reading...

9/29 - Some Link, Some News

-Get ready for another play-in game. Starting in 2009-10, the Great West Conference will begin basketball operations. Originally established as a transitional league for football teams going from DII to DI-AA, it has risen to fourth of fourteen conferences in the Football Championship Division (or whatever I-AA is called now). The six teams (North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah Valley, Texas Pan-American, Utah Valley, and Houston Baptist) will all be eligible for post-season play, but the conference will not receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament until 2020. Kyle Whelliston explains:

Texas-Pan American has never been to the NCAA tournament, but it's been an able qualifier since the 1970s. Fellow non-football school Houston Baptist is returning to Division I after a long finance-related absence (the Huskies made the 52-team field in 1984) and stands to become postseason-eligible again by 2014-15. NJIT and Utah Valley will have completed their transitions once conference play begins in 2009-10. NCAA men's basketball rules require conferences to pass a three-step eligibility check for auto-bid qualification: at least seven fully fledged Div. I members, seven that have been Div. I for at least eight years (known as "core members"), and six core members who have been league mates for five years. The current membership wouldn't meet all of those guidelines until the year 2020.
Personally, I hate the play-in game. One of the perks of winning a low-major conference tournament is the opportunity to play a team like North Carolina, in front of a huge crowd and on national television, with the chance to write your name in the history books. But there is no way that the NCAA will ever reduce the number (34) of at-large bids, especially with the number or high-major coaches that are pushing for MORE at-large bids as it is. This means that by adding another auto-bid conference, there will be another play-in game, and thus another low-major conference tourney winner (the play-in game loser) that doesn't get a chance to play in the real NCAA tournament on Thursday/Friday like the rest of the country. Here is Rush The Court's take on it.

-Gary Parrish got in touch with the guys from Scout.com to discuss where they think the top 6 unsigned recruits in the class of 2009 will end up. If they are right, then Memphis is going to be scary good in 2009-10. Along those same lines, Jason Jordan catches up with John Wall.

-Luke Winn takes a stab at who he thinks will be this year's breakout star, a la Luke Harangody, based on offensive effiiciency statistics.

-I know I'm overloading it with lists today, but Dana O'Neil tells us what players coming off of injuries will make an impact this season.

-Jamie Dixon gets a contract extension through the 2015-16 season.

-Another UConn player is arrested. Freshman Nate Miles, who bounced around high schools and as a result has faced many (mainly academic) issues with his eligibility and enrollment at UConn, has been arrested after violating a restraining order. Apparently, he was served with the restraining order at 8 pm, and placed a call violating the order not 16 minutes later. At least he's not stealing lap tops...
Continue reading...

No. 19 Wake Forest: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 17-13, 7-9 ACC (t-7th)

Key Losses: Noone

Key Returnees: James Johnson (14.6 ppg, 8.1 rpg), Jeff Teague (13.9 ppg, 2.5 apg), LD Williams (8.9 ppg)

Newcomers: Al-Farouq Aminu, Tony Woods, Ty Walker

Wake Forest may have the best front line in the ACC (and one of the best in the country) by season's end. Leading scorer James Johnson, an athletic, 6'8" combo forward and the Demon Deacon's leading scorer last year, returns. At 235 lb, Johnson is big and strong, but also has enough ball-handling ability and a good enough jump shot to be able to score from the perimeter. He is at his best when he is able to face up his defender, although he does have a tendency to make poor decisions with the ball and force bad shots (that could change, however, as Wake Forest now has more offensive weapons). Also returning up front is 7-footer Chas McFarland (8.1 ppg, 5.6 rpg, 1.6 bpg), who was much improved last year as a sophomore and can score inside and out, and Jamie Skeen, a thick 6'8" (250 lb) center who lost his starting spot to McFarland two games into last season and who also must sit out the fall semester because of academic issues.

The real reason that Wake Forest's front line could be so good by the end of the year is the three freshman they bring in. The best of the bunch is probably Al-Farouq Aminu. Aminu is a fantastic athlete, and is 6'8" with a 7'4" wingspan, which means that throughout the year you will probably see him on Sportscenter's top 10 quite a bit. His ball skills (handle, jump shot) still need to be improved, and despite being listed as a small forward he is probably not quite ready for that spot in the ACC just yet. Tony Woods is a 6'11" center with a pretty good low-post game for his age. While he still is a bit uncoordinated, he is fairly athletic and has no problem attacking the rim and finishing with a dunk. Ty Walker, the tallest of the group (listed at 7'0"), has a ton of potential. He has a soft touch (both around the rim and out to about 15-17 feet), has a 7'6" wingspan, and is a great leaper, which makes him a huge shot-blocking threat.

While Wake Forest's front court is loaded, they return some very good players in their back court as well. The best of the bunch is sophomore Jeff Teague, who was Wake's second leading scorer last year at 13.9 ppg. The 6'2" Teague can do a little bit of everything, but is probably at his best when he is putting the ball on the floor and attacking (although he does have a tendency to get out of control - 2.5 t/o's per). He shot 40% from deep last year, but didn't shoot it too often (made 1 per game). Junior Ishmael Smith, the only player last year to start every game (at point), is a pretty good player, averaging 8.6 ppg and 4.3 apg. He, too, turns the ball over too much at almost three times per game, and (as you will see is a problem for Wake's guards) is an inconsistent three point shooter. LD Williams is Wake Forest's best defender, and at 6'4" is big enough to guards small forwards but also quick enough to match-up with point guards. Harvey Hale hit the most three's for Wake last year (45) but did so at a very underwhelming percentage (29%).

Outlook: As I said before, Wake Forest may have the best front line in college basketball when the season is done. They are big, talented, and deep. Their guard play is going to make the difference on whether or not Wake is actually a Final Four contender, or just the third or fourth best team in the ACC. If the back court can protect the ball and knock down open three's when defenses collapse inside on the bigs or on penetration, then Wake could be very, very good. But with a deeper three point line and average-at-best shooters, Wake will struggle against teams with similar size inside. They are probably a year away (depending on who goes pro).
Continue reading...

Thursday, September 25, 2008

No. 20 Davidson: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 29-7, 20-0 Southern (1st)

Key Losses: Jason Richards (12.7 ppg, 8.2 apg), Thomas Sander (7.5 ppg, 4.8 rpg)

Key Returnees: Stephen Curry (25.7 ppg, 4.5 3's, 44%), Andrew Lovedale (6.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

Newcomers: Ben Allison, Frank Ben-Eze, Aaron Bond

Knowing nothing about the upcoming season, if I were to tell you that the media darling of the 2008-09 college hoops season played for a school in North Carolina, how many teams would you guess before you came to Davidson? 10? Unless you have lived under a rock for the last six months, then you are probably fully aware of the year that Stephen Curry had. 25.7 ppg, good for 4th in all of college basketball. 128 points (32 ppg) in four NCAA tournament games, leading Davidson to within a Jason Richards 25 footer of the Final Four with one of (maybe the) greatest NCAA Tournament performance of all-time.

Curry can score. There's no arguing that. He is the best shooter in the country, but is also quick and athletic enough, with a good enough handle, to get to the basket (although he was still more effective last year catching and using a pump fake or jab step then using the bounce). It will be very interesting to see Davidson and Curry play this year. On the one hand, they lose one of the best point guards (and NCAA's leading assist man) Jason Richards, who no doubt set up Curry on a huge number of his three's. But on the other hand, Curry now has a chance to showcase his point guard skills to the NBA. He's been getting good reviews during the off-season, and I expect him to impress people with his ability.

It's not as if Curry will be by himself, however. Senior Andrew Lovedale is an athletic, 6'8" big man who really came on towards the end of the season. He should be a force in the Southern Conference this year. 6'7" junior Stephen Rossiter should start along side Lovedale, but two freshman, 6'10" Frank Ben-Eze and 6'9" Ben Allison, should play a lot of minutes. With Curry moving over to the point, junior Bryant Barr (who has one of the best nicknames I've ever heard, the White Lobster - h/t Loose) should slide into the shooting guard position. Barr is an excellent spot up shooter, and can get hot in a hurry (as evidenced by the three straight three's he hit on Kansas in the Elite 8). The starter at small forward will probably be Max Paulhus Gosselin, who started there last year. At 6'6", Gosselin is a defender and rebounder who gives Davidson some toughness. Will Archambault, who is a similar player to Gosselin (less of a defender, more of a scorer), will see minutes off the bench.

Outlook: As I said before, it will be very interesting to see this Davidson team, and specifically Stephen Curry, play this year. Once again, Head Coach Bob McKillop has scheduled a monster of a non-conference schedule (NIT Preseason tourney, Winthrop, NC State, West Virginia in the Jimmy V classic, at Purdue, and at Duke), so by January we should have a pretty good feel of how good this team will be. Although they may not go 23-0 in Southern Conference play again, I would expect more conference titles, and maybe a win or two in the Dance.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A College Hoops Marathon

November 18th. 14 games. 23 hours. Also known as the College Hoops Tip-Off Marathon. What a way to kick off the season.

ESPN has always struggled with a way to start the college basketball season, and despite the fact that this isn't even the official opening of the season (Nov. 14th is), this is still a great way to build hype for the year to come. Some of the highlights (full schedule after the jump):

-UMass at Memphis, midnight (all times east coast): UMass coach Derek Kellogg was Calipari's lead assistant last year at Memphis, who is trying to prove that they are still contender.

-Fresno St. at St. Mary's, 2 am: Patty Mills gets some national pub, despite the late start (which actually starts on Nov. 17th locally)

-Liberty @ UNC-Asheville, noon: Stephen Curry's little brother, Seth, starts his college career at Liberty, although without Asheville's Kenny George the game loses some of its appeal.

-NIT Regional Finals at Purdue (7 pm), Boston College (7:30 pm), Oklahoma (9:30 pm) and Arizona (11:30 pm).

-And the showcase game, and first College Gameday match-up, Kentucky at UNC, 9 pm: Patrick Patterson versus Tyler Hansbrough should be fun to watch.

This is also probably a good time to announce that this will be the first BIAH live-blog of the season. Yes, all 23-plus hours.

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

No. 21 UNLV: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 27-8, 12-4 MWC (2nd)

Key Losses: Curtis Terry (11.1 ppg, 4.9 apg), Corey Bailey (6.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg), Matt Shaw (6.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg, knee surgery)

Key Returnees: Wink Adams (16.9 ppg, 4.0 rpg), Joe Darger (11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg)

Newcomers: Beas Hamga, Deshawn Mitchell, Oscar Bellfield, Brice Massamba, Darris Santee

UNLV lost a lot from last season's team (namely the underrated Curtis Terry), but still return a team that is talented enough to be considered the favorite in the MWC. The main reason for that is Wink Adams. Adams (whose given name is Jo'Van) is a spark plug for the Runnin' Rebels, both offensively and defensively. He averaged 3.3 apg to go along with his 16.9 ppg, but also was one of the teams best on-the-ball defenders - he had 52 steals on the year. Adams is a good three point shooter (66 3's, 36%, but streaky) and can get to the rim, but is probably most effective when in transition. Starting along Adams in the back court will be 6'6" former walk-on Rene Rougeau (he is classified as a guard, but plays more like a forward). Rougeau is a slasher and a tough defender who can get out on the wing and run the floor. He is not a shooter (as a starter, he shot 1-5 from 3) but he is a tough kid, can hit the glass (led the team in rebounding at 6.2 per), and is perfect for the UNLV system. Expect freshman Oscar Bellfield (from famed Westchester High in Los Angeles) and senior Mareceo Rutledge to also get extended minutes in the backcourt.

The Rebels also return Joe Darger, who was very important for the Rebels last year. He is big enough (6'7", 225 lb) that he is able to defend in the post, but also was one of UNLV's best three point shooters last year (67 3's at a 38% clip). UNLV was thin up front last year (which wasn't too big of a deal because of the tough perimeter defense they played), but they should be deeper this season even with Matt Shaw sitting out due to a knee injury. A big (literally) reason is that 7-footer Beas Hamga will be playing this year. Hamga was the 26th rated recruit coming out of high school is 2007, but red shirted 2007-08 because of eligibility issues. The 20 year old from Cameroon is long and athletic, much in the same mold as Samuel Dalembert, and should be a force in the MWC.

UNLV also signed 6'10", 255 lb Brice Massamba, who is fairly polished down low but can also step out and knock down a perimeter jump shot. The combination Hamga, Massamba, Darger, and JuCo transfer Darris Santee should give the Runnin' Rebels one of the best front courts out west.

Outlook: With Wink Adams and Joe Darger running the show, UNLV will be able to compete in the MWC. But depending on how good the bigs (especially Hamga and Massamba) turn out to be, UNLV is talented enough to make a run to the Sweet 16 and farther.
Continue reading...

Wednesday Where Are They Now?: Lonny Baxter

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Lonny Baxter, Maryland

Lonny Baxter bounced around Washington, DC as a high schooler. The Silver Spring native attended Richard Montgomery High School as a junior before transferring to Anacostia High School for his senior year. There, he led Anacostia to the DC city championship (where he was named MVP of the Finals after scoring 35 points and grabbing 12 rebounds) as well as the DCIAA championship (where he scored 30 points and had 8 rebounds in the championship game). He attended Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia for a post-grad year before moving on to Maryland.

Baxter had a great career at Maryland. He had a decent freshman year, averaging 6.8 ppg and 3.6 rpg, before becoming a first team All-ACC selection as a sophomore, posting career highs of 15.6 ppg and 8.8 rpg. As a junior and a senior, he would average very similar numbers (15.6 and 7.9, then 15.2 and 8.2, respectively), earning second team All-ACC honors both years. As a senior, he teamed with future NBAers Juan Dixon, Steve Blake, and Chris Wilcox to bring a national title to College Park.

Baxter was a second round pick in 2002, going 44th to the Chicago Bulls. He would play for the Bulls in 2002-03, seeing action in 55 games while posting averages of 4.8 ppg and 3.0 rpg. He would suit up for three teams in 2003-04. He played 14 games with the Bulls before being traded to the Toronto Raptors. He was waived after 36 games, but latched on with the Washington Wizards for the remainder of the season. All told, he played in 62 games, averaging 4.0 ppg and 3.0 rpg. Baxter was one of 19 players selected by the Charlotte Bobcats in the 2004 expansion draft, but wasn't signed and thus became an unrestriced free agent. He signed with the Atlanta Hawks in October of 2004, but was cut before the season started. He ended up playing with the Yakima Sun Kings of the CBA (who had drafted him in the CBA draft in 2002 out of Maryland), but ended up getting picked up by the New Orleans Hornets. He only managed to stay with the Hornets for four games before being cut.

In January of 2005, he headed to Europe, as he signed on with Panathinaikos in Greece, where he wasn't a starter but was a big factor in the team's 2005 Greek League championship. In 2005-06, Baxter played in 41 games with the Houston Rockets and Charlotte Bobcats, but only averaged a combined 2.9 ppg and 2.9 rpg. That would be his last season in the NBA. During the summer of 2006, Baxter ran into legal troubles. First, he was arrested on August 16, 2006, after firing two rounds from a glock handgun in the air two blocks from the White House (video of the arrest here). He would end up being sentenced to 60 days in jail. There were still more repercussions from that incident. The gun Baxter shot near White House was one of four that he shipped FedEx from Houston to College Park, with out notifying the shipping company that he was transporting firearms, which is a federal crime. In August of 2007, he would again be sentenced to 60 days in jail, as well as receiving two years supervised released and a $2,000 fine (Ed. Note: Baxter just so happened to major in Criminilogy and Criminal Justice while at Maryland).

The legal issues did not effect Baxter's playing career much. In 2006-07, he signed with Montepaschi Siena of the Italian League, where he averaged 8.0 ppg and 4.1 rpg to help his team win the Italian League title (players of note on that team - Joe Forte from UNC and Romain Sato from Xavier). Even after his second conviction, Siena wanted to renew Baxter's contract, but he decided to sign with DKV Jovenut in Spain for the 2007-08 season before eventually ending the year with Panionios in Greece. With Panionios, he averaged 10.2 ppg and 4.9 rpg in 10 regular season games, but upped that to 12.9 ppg and 6.5 rpg during the Greek playoffs. Panionios finished third in the Greek League, which qualifies them for the 2008-09 Euroleague, and Baxter's performance was enough to get his contract renewed for the upcoming year. He will team with former Kansas point guard Aaron Miles and former Pittsburgh forward Levon Kendall this year.
Continue reading...

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Marqus Blakely Dunks on Brett Wilson, 2007 America East Tournament

In today's Some Links, Some News, I talked about UVM's Marqus Blakely, which got me to thinking about the dunk he had against Albany in the America East tournament. I remember this dunk clearly (a good friend of mine is a huge UVM fan, and I've always rooted for them because they recruit the area I played high school ball in very hard), which makes me wonder how I could have left it off of my top 10 college dunks of all-time list.

Apologies to all Catamount fans, but I did get it up here... Continue reading...

9/23 - Some Link, Some News

-Kyle Whelliston of the Mid-Majority and ESPN, who is probably the world's leading authority on mid-major basketball, profiles three guys (and gives a full list) that transferred out of power conference schools and into mid-majors, and are going to be eligible this year.

One of those guys is Maurice Joseph (who is heading to Vermont despite averaging 5.9 ppg at Michigan State in 2006-07). So not only do the Catamounts return Marqus Blakely (America East Player of the Year at 19 ppg and 11 rpg despite being 6'5") and Mike Trimboli (17.4 ppg and 4.5 apg), they add the 6'4" Joseph (who conveniently used his year off to get shoulder surgery), giving UVM a very talented 1-2-3 punch. Expect UVM to regain their spot atop the America East.

-On Friday, Sept. 19th, some of the biggest names in basketball gathered at Manhattan College for a coaches clinic, which has been dubbed "the clinic to end all clinics". The five guys who spoke: Barry Rohrssen, Hubie Brown, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, and Bob Hurley Sr. Maybe I'm too much of a basketball junkie, but I think I could sit there and listen to those guys talk basketball for hours.

-Dan Dakich, the guy who was the interim coach for Indiana after the Kelvin Sampson debacle, spoke with Gary Parrish (more here) about what he will be doing next year (coaching his 8th grade son and 6th daughter's basketball teams) and about the state of the Indiana program. The most interesting part:

"Let me put it this way," Dakich said. "Sometimes being with Coach Knight you think 'Well, maybe our culture is wrong. Maybe we work too hard and demand too much.' But after seeing what I saw last year, you better have the right culture or else the thing can really blow up on you. And when you talk about everybody gone from the athletic director to the graduate managers, that thing blew up."

It's common knowledge that the players at IU last season weren't model student-athletes, evidence being how Dakich and his successor, Tom Crean, combined to dismiss pretty much everybody who didn't leave on their on accord. Out of respect for the individuals, Dakich declined to get specific. But he did acknowledge the group of players didn't "fit the Indiana basketball culture."

"I feel bad that D.J. White never got to experience Indiana basketball the way it's supposed to be," Dakich said. "And I'm really sad for the players that ended up getting kicked out of here because they will realize at some point in their lives what a colossal mistake they made by not taking advantage of Indiana."
-Good read on Steph Curry, who despite being a super star (he's boys with LeBron), has managed to stay grounded (apparently, he volunteered to help freshman move in at Davidson).

-Syracuse's Eric Devendorf has been granted an extra year of eligibility by the NCAA.

-Nothing to do with college basketball (although No. 9 was a cheerleader for the Arizona State basketball team), the top 10 cheerleader's gone bad. Continue reading...

Monday, September 22, 2008

Mid-Major Recruiting

Mid-majors have been having an unbelievable summer recruiting wise. First, Rivals No. 2 class of 2009 recruit DeMarcus Cousins commits to UAB. Then Zeke Marshall (No. 37 to Akron), Aaric Murray (No. 35 to La Salle), and Greg Smith (No. 87 to Fresno St.) all went the mid-major route. Now, Rashanti Harris, the No. 26 recruit in the class of 2009, has committed to Georgia State. If you are counting, that is five of the top 90 players (and top 15 big men) that have decided to go to school outside of the power conferences.

Don't get me wrong, schools like Xavier, Memphis, Gonzaga, and Nevada have been landing highly touted recruits for a long time, but those are four of the best basketball programs in America right now. You would be hard pressed to find someone in the know about college hoops that would call any of them a true mid-major. So what is going on? Does it have anything to do with guys like Rodney Stuckey (Eastern Washington), Paul Millsap (Louisiana Tech), Jason Thompson (Rider), George Hill (IUPUI), or Courtney Lee (Western Kentucky) getting drafted in the first round (or in Millsap's case, having a successful career after being a second-rounder) in recent years? Maybe it does. Maybe these kids are thinking that they can star at these small schools against weaker competition, which would highlight there strengths and hide their flaws. Maybe the recruiters at the smaller schools are harping on this fact. Or maybe it is just a lucky year for mid-majors.

Regardless, all of the guys listed above are big men, and unless you are a Greg Oden or Michael Beasley (which none of these guys are supposed to be), you are usually more of a work in progress than a finished product. So unless they want to put up huge numbers but still have some fatal flaws in their game (think JaVale McGee), these guys will still need to work (and work hard) to become NBA prospects. Continue reading...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

No. 22 Wisconsin 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 31-5, 16-2 Big Ten (1st)

Key Losses: Brian Butch (12.4 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Michael Flowers (9.6 ppg, 3.9 rpg)

Key Returnees: Trevon Hughes (11.2 ppg, 3.1 rpg), Marcus Landry (10.8 ppg, 5.4 rpg)

Newcomers: Ryan Evans, Jordan Taylor, Rob Wilson, Jason Berggren, Ian Markolf

Is it just me, or is Wisconsin consistently the most underrated team in the preseason. I initially wasn't going to have Wisconsin in my preseason top 25, but it seems like every year, the Badgers are unranked or ranked very low in the preseason, then end up in the top 10 and win (or compete for) the Big Ten crown (they are the anti-Arizona). They are one of the few schools that actually seem to have a basketball program that recruits to fit their needs (and not just based on player rankings). It is a testament to how good of a coach Bo Ryan actually is, and shows you what can happen when you get kids that stay for four years and learn a system.

Wisconsin's best returning player is probably point guard Trevon Hughes. Hughes one of the more underrated point guards in the country. He is a hawk defensively (62 steals, 4th in the conference) and was the Badgers second leading scorer at 11.2 ppg. He is a little reckless with the ball at times (averaged more than 2 t/o's per) but over the last ten games he had a 2.2:1 a/to ratio. Joining Hughes in the back court will be last year's Big Ten sixth man award winner Jason Bohannon. Bohannon is probably the best shooter on the Badgers, but isn't much more than a spot up shooter. Two freshman, 6'1" point guard Jordan Taylor and 6'5" off-guard Robert Wilson, will also see time in the back court.

Wisconsin's strength, as always, will be their front court. Joe Krabbenhoft and Marcus Landry both return for their senior years. Both of them have very similar games - big, strong, 6'7" combo forwards that can bang underneath or step out and a three pointer. Both are also good defenders, as any Wisconsin Badger has to be. Say what you will about Brian Butch, the guy was an effective low-post player (especially in the Big Ten) and losing him will hurt, although Ryan does bring in two promising freshman centers. Jared Berggren is the better of the two. He is 6'10", 240 lb and should be able to provide some rebounding and interior defense while he improves his unpolished offensive repertoire. Ian Markolf is more of a work-in-progress, and although he is a 7-footer and mobile, he is still a bit slow and uncoordinated (think Brian Zoubek from Duke).

Outlook: As it always is with any Wisconsin team, their isn't all that much to say about them individually. But as a group, under the tutelage and the system of Bo Ryan, Wisconsin is a very good TEAM. Losing Butch and Flowers is a lot, so I left them at #22 mainly because I just don't know that much about the guys that are coming back (watching them play is pretty brutal). But I would expect them to be in the thick of things in the Big Ten.

Continue reading...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Who Will Benefit From The Longer 3 Pt. Line

The guys over at Rush The Court did some very interesting statistical analysis on who would benefit the most and who would be hurt the most with the change to the deeper three point line during the upcoming season (20'9" from 19'9"). Their hypothesis:

Teams that have a large differential in their home/away three-point shooting percentages are likely to have fewer “pure” shooters and therefore will be most negatively impacted by the one-foot longer three-point line next season.
Their assumptions:
  • We’re assuming that all team three-point percentages should decrease with the longer distance.
  • Teams with "pure" shooters should have high relative three-point percentages no matter where they shoot the ball - home or away.
  • There will be a natural dropoff in most team three-point percentages on the road because of adverse conditions, but good shooting teams will remain good shooting teams. Teams with questionable shooters will show a marked decrease between their home and road three-point percentages.
  • We admit, given the turnover of players from season to season, that the predictive value of analyzing 07-08 data on the 08-09 season is tenuous at best.
By their calculations, Temple, Ole Miss and BYU will be hurt the most, while IUPUI, Baylor, and Michigan State will be hurt the least (it's good stuff, check it out).

My opinion differs (although, to be perfectly honest, I think that the move is short enough that there won't be a tremendous effect since 20'9" is still in the range of most players at the D1 level, and thus must be defended accordingly).

As much as I love statistics, I think that they are only useful to a point. For example, as we touched on yesterday, the debate between Luke Harangody and Tyler Hansbrough. You can look at PPG, RPG, FG%, pts/shot, team possessions per game, number of touches they get, how much the team uses the player. The list goes on and on (check out KenPom for any statistical need). But when it comes down to it, the only real way to determine who is better is to ask yourself "who would I rather have on my team?". Think about it like this: you are the captain picking teams for a pick-up game. Do you take Hansbrough or Harangody?

Statistics are great for analyzation, for arguments, and for discussion, but at some point, a decision has to be made based on what the guy can do on the court. It's as simple as that.

The same thing goes for the discussion about the three-point line. First of all, I disagree a bit with the assumptions. Personally, I think the difference in shooting percentages for home-vs.-away is based much more in the mental make-up of the player than in the ability of the shooter (especially when you deal with the hostile crowds on college campuses). The rim height never changes, but the conditions do, and it is the guys that can handle the taunts and the chants that will make shots on the road. Call it having mental toughness, call it having moxie, call it having balls, whatever, the ability of the shooter doesn't change.

I don't have any statistical data to back it up (if someone does I would love to see it), but in this day and age I am willing to bet that a majority of the three's that are taken are already shot from beyond the new three-point line. Unless you are spotting up, so much of where you get a shot off from comes from things the shooter can't control, like the angle of the screen you are coming off, how good the screen was, the timing between the passer and the shooter, etc. At that level, with how athletic players are and how well they are coached and prepared for each game, when you are open you have a split second to get the shot off. The shooter is much more worried about getting a good look at the rim than where exactly he is on the floor. And the best shooters, well they will fire from 28 feet, so the line moving back won't effect them too much.

Who will be helped by the three point line moving back

I think that teams that have a good low post scorer surrounded by good shooters will benefit the most. Think Notre Dame (not to harp on Harangody, but they are fresh in my mind). When Harangody has the ball on the block 1-on-1 against a defender, more often than not he is going to score, either by getting a basket or drawing a foul and going to the line (many times both). So as a defense, to combat that, you need to slough off of guys on the perimeter and help, or send someone to double, and that extra foot will make it that much harder to get back out to the shooters. Guys like Ryan Ayers and Kyle McAlarney are going to be able to knock down open three's even if it is from a foot farther back, especially if they have more time.

Some other teams that could benefit: Arizona State, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Gonzaga to name a few.

Who will be hurt by the three point line moving back

I think that teams that are perimeter oriented with an offense based on penetration will be hurt the most. Think Memphis. Coach Cal's offensive system is one where he spreads the court and isolates his players, allowing them to try and beat their man 1-on-1. If they can, they go all the way to the rim. If they can't, they try to draw a helper and then kick the ball out to the open man, allowing him a chance to go 1-on-1 against a defender closing out, and so on (its called the Dribble-Drive Motion, and it is more complicated than that, but you get the gist). Anyway, with the deeper three point line and sub-par shooters, it will allow defenders to slough a little farther off their man, both on the ball and off the ball. This will make it harder to beat your defender, harder to draw a helper, and allow the helper to close out shorter when he returns to his man (he can close out shorter because a deep two is better than allowing penetration, and if it is a sub par shooter, than you are less worried about the deeper three).

Other teams with similar styles that could be hurt: Louisville, UConn, Baylor.

All that said, the least complicated way to give an answer is to say that the teams with better shooters will benefit and the teams with poorer shooters will be hurt. If you can shoot, you can still hit a three from 20'9". If you can't shoot, than it will be that much harder for you to beat your man.
Continue reading...

9/18 - Some Link, Some News

-I thought that it would take Tom Crean three or four years to rebuild the Indiana Hoosiers basketball program, but after Crean signed Christan Watford, a 6'7" combo forward from Alabama and a consensus top 40 recruit, it looks like Indiana may be able to compete before that. Watford joins Maurice Creek (Rivals No. 59), Derek Elston (98), Jordan Hulls (106), and Bobby Capobianco (as well as Georgetown transfer Jeremiah Rivers, who will become eligible for the 2009-2010 season), giving Indiana what is just about guaranteed to be a top 10 recruiting class in 2009. The best news? Crean can recruit Indiana. Elston (Tipton) and Hulls (Bloomington) are two of the best local products. Crean also has 10 new faces coming into Bloomington (eight freshman and two JuCo transfers) this season, led by 6'4" guards Verdall Jones and Nick Williams.

-Yesterday we wrote about the newest trouble arising in Tuscon, Lute Olson's alleged recruiting violation. GoAZCats.com is probably the best place to get up to date news on all Arizona Wildcat athletics, but they have yet to report on the possible violation (although they were the ones to break the story about Abdul Gaddy re-committing). Gary Parrish tells us why. Jim Storey, the man whose AAU Tournament was the destination for the illegal funds Olson was trying to get from donors, also just happens to be the creator and principal of GoAZCats. Interesting.

-Last year, Duke Crews was the starting power forward for Tennessee before an injury, a suspension, and a heart condition combined to end his season. This year, Crews will be the starting power forward for DII Bowie State. Crews was kicked off the team at Tennessee, along with fellow sophomore Ramar Smith, for failing drug tests and decided to go to a DII school so he wouldn't have to sit out a year.

-Alex Stephenson still has not been cleared to play for USC this year, as he is awaiting word on whether he will get a waiver (aka the Tyler Smith waiver) because of the health of his father.

-Luke Harangody vs. Tyler Hansbrough. Both put up similar numbers, but one has much more star power than the other.

-Seth Davis of SI.com wrote an interesting piece looking at five teams that took trips abroad to play exhibitions during the summer.

-ESPN's Dana O'Neil catches up with John Chaney.

-Which state has the best overall college basketball? Storming the Floor tries to find out.

-Former Illinois guard Jamar Smith has received 18 months probation for violating a court order after his 2007 DUI, where he crashed into a tree and left teammate Brian Carlswell severely injured in the car.

-I don't like getting into recruiting too much, but there were some big signings yesterday - Tyler Honeycutt to UCLA and Avery Bradley to Texas.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Wednesday Where Are They Now?: Hollis Price

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Hollis Price, Oklahoma

Hollis Price did not have it easy growing up. Price was raised in the now-demolished Desire projects in New Orleans 9th ward (the same projects that Marshall Faulk grew up in), sleeping on his grandparents couch because his mom was in and out of his life, constantly battling drug addiction. From a young age, Price's grandparents instilled a work-ethic, a toughness, and a sense of worth in himself, which was only enforced when they enrolled him at St. Augustine High School (a high school which allowed corporal punishment, aka a paddling if you misbehave). Price failed off the team as a freshman, but eventually he was straightened out by the strict rules of St. Augustine's, the high school that produced NBA players Kerry Kittles and Avery Johnson. By the end of his sophomore year, Price was starting and during his senior season, he and Sooner teammate Quannas White led St. Augustine's to a state title.

Price was one of Kelvin Sampson's favorite players from day one, as Price epitomized the toughness and leadership that Sampson demands from his team and his players. As a freshman, Price worked his way into the starting line-up (20 of the last 21 games) thanks to his tremendous defensive ability (47 steals) and his point guard play (averaged 3.5 apg with a 1.9 a/to ratio), which earned him a spot on the Big XII all-freshman team. The Sooners reached the second round of the NCAA tournament. As a sophomore, Price developed into one of the best point guards in the Big XII. He led the team in assists (4.7), minutes (33.2), and steals (1.9) while also scoring 11.8 ppg. Price's toughness was on display during that season as he played through many aches and pains, none more so than the one he suffered in the NCAA tournament. In OU's first round loss to Indiana State, Price tore his triceps on the teeth of one of the ISU players, an injury that required three surgeries during the off-season, but returned later in the game. The injury was so bad, that given the severity of the tear, if it had happened only a few centimeters closer to the nerve, his arm would have been amputated (I didn't believe it either, but read this).

Price's junior year he was asked to change roles a bit, becoming more of a scorer than a point guard (mainly a result of the addition of former St. Augustine teammate and point guard White). While his assists dipped to 2.7 apg, his scoring increased to 16.5 ppg while also improving his overall shooting (43% to 46%) and his three point shooting (from 38 3's at 34% to 84 3's at 38%). He helped lead Oklahoma to the Final Four that year, where they lost to Indiana. Price was named MVP of the Big XII tournament as well as MVP of the West Region in the NCAA tournament. As a senior, Price's scoring again increased, to 18.0 ppg, as he led the Sooners to a #1 seed in the NCAA's. They reached the Elite 8, where they lost to eventual National Champions Carmelo Anthony and the Syracuse Orange. Price was named a second team all-american by the AP and a first team all-american by the USBWA and the Sporting News.

Price didn't get drafted that summer, but managed to latch on with the Cleveland Cavaliers summer league team, although he he didn't make their roster. He ended up signing with Le Mans in the French league, where he would play for two seasons, averaging 13.4 ppg and 5.4 apg in 2003-04 and 12.3 ppg and 4.0 apg in 2004-05. Both years, the team reached the ULEB Cup, although Price did not play as well (11.5 ppg and 7.7 ppg, respectively). In the summer of 2005, Price played with the Rockets summer league team (as he would in 2006) but, again, nothing would come of it. During the 2005-06 season, Price played with Alba Berlin where he averaged 15.0 ppg and 5.0 apg and again reached the ULEB Cup, but once again struggled at the end of the season, averaging just 12.9 ppg and 3.0 apg in ULEB play. In 2006-07, Price played for Caja San Fernando in the ACB (Spain), where he averaged 10.8 ppg and 3.6 apg.

Last year, Price signed with Lietuvos Rytas in Lithuania, where he averaged 8.7 ppg and 3.0 apg during the Lithuanian season, but Rytas reached the Euroleague, where Price was the sixth leading scorer at 16.9 ppg. During the season, however, Price was a victim of a racially motivated attack. Apparently, at 10 pm on Nov. 26th in Vilnius, Price was jumped by three skinheads, thrown to the ground, and beaten before bystanders broke it up. Price didn't sustain any serious injuries, but was limited to just eight minutes in his next game.

Price has signed with Dynamo Moscow of the Russian League, where he will be teamed with former Minnesota Golden Gopher Ariel McDonald, Travis Hansen from BYU (remember the bleached blonde guy?), and former NBA players Bostjan Nachbar and Jannero Pargo.
Continue reading...

Hey Lute, It's Time To Retire Buddy

What a year it has been for the Arizona basketball program. Take a look at this chain of events:

  • In March, 2007, rumors start to circulate that Lute Olson has Parkinson's Disease, which he brushes off as a "vicious, vicious rumor".
  • On November 4th, 2007, Olson announces that he will be taking a year-long leave of absence from the team and is to be replaced by lead assistant Kevin O'Neill. On December 7th, Olson files for divorce from his wife Christine. In April, it gets ugly.
  • Then, the exodus began. First, it was interim coach Kevin O'Neill, who Olson graciously parted ways with threw under the bus. Then it was Jerryd Bayless (NBA Draft), Brandon Jennings (Europe), Emmanuel Negedu (common sense) and Abdul Gaddy. 
  • Lute Olson sounds off on recruiting one-and-done players.
Now, it appears has if Olson has committed a pretty serious and damning recruiting violation. Apparently, a letter was sent out in May to the Arizona basketball boosters asking them to donate money to the Jim Storey Cactus Classic AAU Tournament (boosters are explicitly forbidden from financially assisting any recruits). From the AP:
"A 'personal and confidential' letter was sent to Rebounders Club board of directors over the electronic signature of Lute Olson, requesting that they provide financial assistance to Jim Storey's Cactus Classic AAU Tournament," Livengood said in a July 2 letter to Ron Barker, Pac-10 associate commissioner in charge of governance and enforcement. "The letter expressed how important this tournament is to the Arizona basketball program's recruiting. The letter also stated [correctly] that 'The athletics department can't assist in any way.' Which would include requesting that donors make financial contributions."
Olson denies all knowledge of the letter, and some Arizona fans are even crying conspiracy (h/t RTC).

I don't know what happened. I am definitely cynical enough to believe that Lute Olson (and any big-time D1 coach for that matter) would have no problem skirting the rules like that (if you ain't cheatin', you ain't tryin'). But to be honest, it is not even a huge problem as Arizona self-reported it back in July, and it is the type of thing (a form letter with a digitized signature) that would be very easy to forge (and if you believe some of those 'Zona fans, a very real possibility).

Whether Lute sent the letter or not doesn't change the fact that it may be time for him to hang it up. He's 74 years old and his teams have consistently underachieved during the new millenium (although to be fair, his assistants are he is a helluva recruiter as he just re-landed top 10 recruit Abdul Gaddy). To me, it has always seemed as if Lute Olson has just rolled the ball out there and let his guys play. Granted, there is a method to the madness - he lands talented lead guards, surrounds them with talented role players, and then runs a system where the Wildcats push the ball and play in the open court. That is fine when you are loaded at every position (remember in 2000-01 when they had Gilbert Arenas, Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton, Loren Woods, Michael Wright, and Jason Gardner? I think only the 1996 Kentucky team and the 2006 UConn team had more talent in my lifetime), but it is tough when you aren't.

I loved Lute and Arizona back in the day. Besides UConn, they were probably my favorite team growing up. I just hope that Olson's legacy lives on as the great things he did for the program in the 90's, and not that he ran it into the ground these last four or five seasons.
Continue reading...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

No. 23 West Virginia: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 26-11, 11-7 Big East (t-5th)

Key Losses: Joe Alexander (16.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg), Darris Nichols (10.7 ppg, 3.0 apg)

Key Returnees: Alex Ruoff (13.6 ppg, 3.5 rpg), Da'Sean Butler (12.9 ppg, 6.2 rpg), Joe Mazzula (5.8 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

Newcomers: Devin Ebanks, Darryl Bryant, Kevin Jones, Cameron Payne, Dee Proby

Joe Alexander flourished in Bob Huggins system, going from relative unknown, even for the Big East, to the #8 pick in the NBA Draft and arguably the best player in the conference over the last month-plus of the season. If he had come back, West Virginia would be one of (if not the) favorite in the Big East, but even with Alexander in Milwaukee, the Mountaineers have a ton of talent returning.

The loss of Darris Nichols in the back court is going to hurt a bit, but junior Joe Mazzula proved that he is more than capable of handling the starting point guard role. At 6'2", Mazzula is strong and fast (he was a five-time all-state sprinter in high school), but also a very good decision maker. He doesn't turn the ball over much, can rebound well for his size, and is fine setting up his teammates. 6'6" senior Alex Ruoff also returns. Ruoff has always been a great spot-up shooter, but has added some slashing ability to his game. Freshman Darryl Bryant and sophomore Will Thomas should also see some minutes off the bench.

Even with Alexander gone the Mountaineers have a very good front court. The most proven player is junior Da'Sean Butler, WVU's third leading scorer last year. Butler is an athletic, 6'7" small forward that can do a little bit of everything - he can get to the basket from the perimeter, he can post up a smaller defender, he can knock down a three, he can rebound, he can defend. With Alexander gone, Butler could be poised for a big year. The most talented player in the front court is freshman Devin Ebanks, a top-15 recruit that Huggins signed late. Ebanks might as well be Alexander circa his freshman year - a 6'8", long, lanky, athletic wing that can score from the perimeter or in the post. His jump shot is a little better than Alexander's, as are his ball skills. Ebanks should have an immediate impact. Wellington Smith is another guy cut out of that exact same mold. A tremendous athlete (at 6'7", he had 60 blocks last year playing 20 mpg), he has put on about 45 pounds of muscle since landing in Morgantown, and should expect a big bump in playing time and production this year. Sophomores John Flowers and Cam Thoroughman played limited roles last year (Thoroughman much more limited than Flowers) but were both impressive when I did see them play, and newcomers Kevin Jones (a 6'9" freshman) and Dee Proby (a 6'10" JuCo transfer) should also get some minutes.

Outlook: WVU is not going to have a problem defending or rebounding (Huggy Bear's teams never do). They have a ton of size and a slew of athletes that they can throw at an opponent. The question this year is going to be who can score? Who can they give the ball to when they need a basket? Ruoff and Butler are talented players, but neither of them were really go-to scorers last year, and Ebanks, as talented as he is, has a tendency to disappear and not be assertive enough. Even without a go-to guy, the Mountaineers should be a top-8 team in the conference (which isn't as bad as it sounds).
Continue reading...

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Willie Warren on Xavier Henry

Willie Warren, a top 50 recruit and freshman at Oklahoma, is renowned for his confidence (which some people would call cockiness). Proof? Here are two stories:

Bryant wasn't a regular visitor early on at the invitation-only, Nike-sponsored Kobe Bryant Skills Academy. So when he finally arrived Warren took it upon himself to deliver a little jab and tell Bryant he had been wondering whether he'd ever show his face.

Then they went at it on the court.

When Bryant offered some advice to help Warren with his game, Warren countered by offering some advice to help Bryant with his game. Hilarious. A few weeks later at the LeBron James Skills Academy, Warren declined to take a picture with James because he didn't want to be seen idolizing a person he plans on competing against in the NBA sometime soon.
Personally, I think those stories are hilarious, and I love Warren's swagger (hopefully, he can tone it down a bit when he is playing with Blake Griffin).

Anyway, maybe the cockiness is warranted.

The dunk happened last May at the Nike Memorial Day Classic. The guy getting dunked on? Xavier Henry, a top 5 recruit in the class of 2009. Continue reading...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

No. 24 St. Mary's: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Record: 25-7, 12-2 WCC (2nd)

Key Losses: Tron Smith (8.0 ppg), Todd Golden (7.0 ppg)

Key Returnees: Patty Mills (14.8 ppg, 3.5 apg), Diamon Simpson (13.4 ppg, 9.6 rpg), Omar Sahman (10.5 ppg, 7.3 rpg)

Newcomers: Clint Steindl, Colin Chiverton, Trey Anderson, Tim Williams, Phil Benson, Ben Allen

This year may be the year that Gonzaga's reign atop the WCC finally comes to an end, as St. Mary's returns their top three scorers and four starters from a 25 win team (although the 'Zags are loaded this year). When you talk about the St. Mary's Gaels, the first guy you have to mention is Patty Mills, the only college player that played in this year's Olympics (for Australia). And what an Olympics he had, averaging 14 ppg and 2 apg, including a 20 point and 3 steal outburst against the US (he drew rave reviews from Chris Paul and Coach K). Mills is as quick as anyone in the country, and can get into the paint with ease. If he improves his perimeter shooting, this guy has first round pick written all over him. The biggest knock on Mills is that he is a bit over-aggressive (he had more turnovers than assists 12 times, not good for your primary ball handler), but some of that can be attributed to him being a freshman and getting used to American basketball.

Junior Wayne Hunter, who redshirted last season, will return, which should help offset the loss of Tron Smith and Todd Golden. Hunter, a 6'4" slasher, averaged 8.8 ppg and 3.2 rpg as a sophomore in 2006-07. Senior Carlin Hughes will probably be the first guard off the bench, and expect freshman Colin Chiverton and Trey Anderson to also see some time.

The Gaels may have the most underrated front court in the country. Diamon Simpson, a 6'7" power forward and double double machine, is back for his senior year. Simpson is a force on the block, but can also step out and knock down a three (he shot 41% on the year). The combination of Mills and Simpson gives the Gaels two legitimate go-to guys and one of the best inside-outside combos out west. Simpson's front court mate, 6'11' Omar Samhan, also returns. Samhan provides a big body inside, and can put up big numbers (six double doubles last year). Indiana transfer Ben Allen will be eligible this year, giving the Gaels some depth at the position. Ian O'Leary started at small forward last season and probably will again this year, but Yusef Smith and Lucas Walker are both very capable players.

Outlook: St. Mary's has it all - experience, depth, size, and a go-to scorer in the back court and the front court. They are talented enough that they could win the WCC, and I wouldn't be surprised if they made it to the Sweet 16, or further. Expect Patty Mills to be an all-american candidate.
Continue reading...

A Feel Good Story For A Change

Darnell Jackson, a starting forward on the national championship Kansas Jayhawk team and second round NBA Draft pick, has just signed a three-year guaranteed contract with Cleveland. It's great for him, because by all accounts he seems like a pretty good kid who has gone through some tough times.

In the eighth grade Jackson’s absentee father, James Howard, was shot and killed by Oklahoma City police after he attacked a jogger. As a high school senior, Jackson arrived at the scene moments after a friend’s murder. A few years ago his close friend, Glen Davis, died after being shot in the head by gang members.

Jackson’s uncle was murdered, too, and his grandfather died in 2006. “Just last month his cousin was killed in a shooting.” The worst tragedy, though, occurred in the summer of 2005, when a car carrying Jackson’s mother, Shawn, and grandmother, Yvonne, was struck by a drunk driver in Las Vegas. Yvonne Jackson died a week later from the injuries she sustained in the collision.
Since I've started this blog, I've realized that being a media member (even if it is just this blog) is kind of depressing. It seems like everything I am writing about, especially during the summer months, is an injury, or an arrest, or another kid making a mistake that could cost him his career.

Well, that changes today. Read this letter from Darnell Jackson to Jayhawk fans, which he emailed to a paper in Kansas:
Dear Jayhawk fans,

Just about five years ago I realized a dream when coach (Bill) Self offered me a scholarship to become a Jayhawk. I came to Kansas as a young man who had a lot to learn in a lot of ways. My freshman year was a real eye opener.

On one hand I got a chance to play with some of the greatest players to don a KU uniform in Aaron Miles, Wayne Simien and Keith Langford.

But the rigors of big time college basketball were a real challenge. I had to grow up quickly and learn to take care of business in the classroom and on the court. As all of you know I was a role player my freshman year and played in only 13 games.

But what I hope you all realize is I felt so fortunate to play for the Jayhawks and especially to practice with and learn from guys like Simien and Langford.

By my sophomore year I was a little more prepared for what I needed to do. Coach Self gave me a chance to play a lot more. That year was one of the hardest years of my life. As most of you probably recall, my mom and grandma were hit by a drunk driver that year.

I was already struggling with trying to grow up and be a better student and a better teammate. Then when my mom was seriously hurt and my grandma was killed, I felt like the world was caving in on me. That, I think, was the first time I really truly started to understand what it meant to be part of the Jayhawk family.

Looking back I see what incredible support I received from so many Jayhawk fans that I had never even met. At the time I was really struggling to battle the “woe is me” trap. But now I can look back and see how I learned so much from all of you who were so ready to offer love and support.

I can tell you now, that is one of my most cherished memories as a Jayhawk. I loved winning on the court but it was then I started to see that being a Jayhawk was really something that would be there for me the rest of my life.

By my junior year I was still struggling with insecurity about handling all the stress I felt. My mom was still in pain and needing surgery after surgery. My little brother and sister were growing up and I felt I needed to be there for them. I still lacked confidence that I could step up and be what the coaching staff was hoping from me.

I felt like I needed to be a leader and to represent KU in a great way that all you fans deserved. But I still needed to grow up and learn how to handle all these things. But everywhere I turned there was always a KU fan with an encouraging word.

At the time I sometimes thought that no one really understood what I was going through. But looking back I have learned that even if that was true what really was amazing was that people just wanted to show love and support.

I now realize how that continuous support from all of you was always something that lifted me up and made me feel good and positive. It was my junior year that all my inner turmoil came to a head. I felt so overwhelmed by everything that I just reacted without really thinking and came home to Oklahoma City. I just felt I couldn't take care of my family and school as well as being the Jayhawk everybody wanted me to be any more. I was just feeling overwhelmed.

That is when it happened. After coach Self came down and talked with me I decided to come back. It was then I started to realize that the reason I was feeling so overwhelmed was that I was mostly focusing on myself and my stress. All this time I was playing for the greatest basketball school in the country with the best fans hands down.

I started to see what a blessing it was to have people who were so willing to show love and support. And I can assure you that you fans did show love and support far beyond anything I could have hoped for. I also realized that the coaching staff was trying to get me to become the best I could be.

I realized that all of the yelling and pushing was just trying to get me to work harder and improve. Over the summer between my junior and senior years I got to spend a lot of time at home. I really began to see and focus on all the blessings I had rather than all the trials. I came back for my senior year determined to be the best Jayhawk I could be.

A very close friend of mine, my mentor, always would tell me that when I was so blessed I needed to understand that put a responsibility on me to multiply those blessings by giving blessings to others.

I really was seeing what a great blessing it was to be on such a great team, with great coaches but most of all having the Jayhawk on my jersey in a packed Allen Fieldhouse with the most knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans anywhere.

So I wanted to start giving back by playing my butt off and giving all you fans something to cheer about. In April I was able to realize a second great dream along with all my teammates when we brought a National Championship back to Lawrence.

I didn't think anything could ever top running out on the court at Allen Fieldhouse. But when 100,000 fans showed up to celebrate our championship I truly felt so honored to be able to be a small part in bringing such joy to all you fans.

Believe me, it only begins to pay you back for all the love and support you have given me these last four years.

Well, this week I realized a third dream when I signed a multi-year contract to play in the NBA for the Cleveland Cavaliers. I am very excited to play in Cleveland. But I want all of you fans to know that no matter where I go or what I do, I will forever be thankful to you for showing all the love and support for me these last four years. I AM FOREVER A JAYHAWK. I even have a degree to prove it. You fans have taught me so much and meant so much to me so I wanted to send you this letter saying THANK YOU.

Rock Chalk Jayhawk,
Darnell Jackson
In this world of agent's, and runner's, and shoe contracts, and recruiting scandals, it is so nice to see that sometimes, college athletics actually do what they are supposed to do - get someone a college degree who wouldn't have otherwise.

Congratulations Darnell.
Continue reading...

Friday, September 12, 2008

No. 25 Xavier: 2008-2009 Team Preview

2007-2008 Team Record: 30-7, 14-2 A-10 (1st)

Key Losses: Stanley Burrell (9.7 ppg, 3.8 apg), Drew Lavender (10.8 ppg, 4.5 apg), Josh Duncan (12.4 ppg, 4.7 rpg)

Key Returnees: Derrick Brown (10.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg), CJ Anderson (10.7 ppg, 5.9 rpg), BJ Raymond (9.9 ppg, 3.0 rpg)

Newcomers: Kenny Frease, Terrell Holloway, Mark Lyons, Brad Redford, Brian Walsh

Xavier may have been the most balanced team in the country last year, with six guys averaging more than 9.7 ppg. They lose three of those guys, Stanley Burrell, Drew Lavender, and Josh Duncan, but are left with more than enough to be considered the favorite in the A-10. The strength of this Xavier team will probably be on the wing, where they have a glut of talented small forwards. The best of the bunch is probably Derrick Brown, who will end up in the power forward role again this year. He is an athletic, 6'8" lefty who came to Xavier as not much more than an athlete, but has developed a respectable jump shot (even out to the three point line) and a decent face-up game. CJ Anderson and BJ Raymond will most likely be the starters at the two-guard and small forward positions. While both 6'6", their games are complete opposite - Anderson is a slasher (did not make a three pointer last year) while Raymond is more of a shooter (attempted 38 free throws in 37 games). Dante Jackson, a sophomore who really started to develop as the season progressed (especially defensively), will be the first guy off the bench and should contribute some very good minutes.

Despite being the leading scorer last year, Duncan only started 16 games. That's because Jason Love, a 6'9", 255 lb center was a much better defender on the block. Love averaged 6.0 ppg and 5.5 rpg in just 18 mpg last year, but will probably split time again this season with freshman Kenny Frease, a top 50 recruit. Frease could have gone anywhere in the country, but committed early to Xavier and stuck with them. At 6'11", most scouting reports say that he is a tough rebounder with some solid post moves. A low post scoring threat was the one thing Xavier was missing last year, and Frease should fill that role well.

The point guard spot seems to be wide open. The Musketeers lost Lavender to graduation, and did not have anyone to replace him, so Sean Miller went out and landed some very good point guard recruits. Terrell Holloway, who originally committed to Indiana but re-opened his recruiting after the Kelvin Sampson debacle, is probably the favorite to land the starting spot as he is the most ready to play. While not a flashy play maker, Holloway is a quick point guard who needs to work on is jump shot, but can get by his defender and also makes things happen defensively (very similar to Lavender, but five inches taller, at the same point in Lavender's career). Where Holloway will look to run the offense, Mark Lyons is more of a scoring point guard. At 6'1", he has great athleticism and leaping ability, although it is sometimes to his disadvantage as he will try to make the spectacular play instead of the simple one. He is also a good defender, and wreaks havoc in the passing lanes.

Outlook: Once again, Xavier looks to be the class of the A-10. They are probably not as good as last year's team, which spent a good part of the season in the top 10, because of the inexperience at the point guard position (people really under appreciate how good Lavender was). They still have a lot of athletes and a lot of guys that are versatile and can play multiple positions. You know what you are going to get out of the veteran Musketeers, so if Holloway and Lyons can solidify the point guard spot and Frease develops into a legitimate post threat, Xavier should win the A-10 with ease again.
Continue reading...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Kenny George out for the year

The biggest man in college basketball will be out for the season after undergoing a second surgery on his right foot. Kenny George, the 7'9", 370 lb center from UNC Asheville began experiencing discomfort in the foot after the big man camp in Las Vegas last month. It's a shame. George had finally started to come into his own as a player, after averaging 12.4 ppg, 7.0 rpg, and 3.3 bpg last year. He also scored 14 points and grabbed 11 boards in Asheville's match up with the Tar Heels last year (although most people will probably remember him for this).

George's career has been plagued by injuries and eligibility problems. He dislocated his knee and missed most of his senior year in high school, red shirted his freshman year because he was not academically eligible, and then missed most of the 2005-06 season after suffering another knee injury.

Maybe people just weren't meant to be that big. Continue reading...

Wednesday Where Are They Now?: Luke Recker

Ever wonder what happened to those college stars that couldn't catch on in the NBA? The guys that put up the great numbers or the guys that left early, and were never heard from again? Every Wednesday, we at BIAH will take a look at a former college star that never made it in the NBA, and we will update you on where he is playing or what he is doing. We're guessing the results will surprise you. To request a player, leave a comment in the comments section.

Luke Recker, Indiana/Arizona/Iowa

Luke Recker was living the dream. As a McDonald's and Parade all-american and Indiana's Mr. Basketball in 1997, Recker had decided to stay home and attend Indiana to play for coach Bobby Knight. As a freshman in 1997-98, he ended up being second on the team in minutes while averaging 12.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg, and 2.9 apg and also leading the team in steals with 48. Recker was named honorable mention All-Big 10. He was even better as a sophomore, when he increased his scoring output to 16.1 ppg, which was enough to get a nod as 3rd team All-Big 10.

But that's when the dream turned into a nightmare for Recker. As a schoolboy legend, he was expected to follow in the footsteps of guys like Steve Alford and Damon Bailey, leading the Hoosiers for four years. But Coach Knight's style of play was not conducive to the way Recker played. Recker was a shooter that liked to get out and run the floor and make plays (for example, his biggest knock had always been his man to man defense, but he still managed to average more than 1.5 spg for his career). Bobby Knight's Hoosier teams played at a slower, more deliberate pace, which Recker felt hindered his ability to showcase his talents for the NBA. So Recker decided to transfer to Arizona to play under Lute Olsen. The decision to transfer was not an easy one for Recker, as he became public enemy #1 in Indiana basketball circles, although to this day he still maintains he decision to leave IU had nothing to do with Knight's aggressive demeanor and everything to do with basketball.

But just weeks before he was to go to Arizona, Recker was in Colorado with his high school sweetheart, Kelly Craig, and her family. One night, on the way home from a carnival, the car Recker and Craig were riding in was struck head on by a drunk driver in a pick-up (he also side-swiped the pick-up in front of them, which was carrying 11 people, 9 in the bed of the truck). All told, 14 people were seriously injured and 1 died. Recker almost lost his left ear, sliced his temporal artery, had a gash running from his ear and along his jaw down to his neck, and he crushed his left wrist and thumb. He needed more than 200 stitches to close him up, and would probably have ended up bleeding out had a nurse not happened to drive by minutes after the accident.

Craig broke her neck and severely bruised her spinal cord, leaving her paralyzed. She was able to gain some mobility back in her shoulders, left arm and wrist, and some feeling in her legs, but she will be in a wheelchair the rest of her life. Craig's brother was left in a coma with permanent brain damage. Recker never played a game for Arizona, as he decided to transfer closer to his family and the Craigs, instead attending the University of Iowa where he would play for former Hoosier Steve Alford (it is rumored, mostly among IU fans, that Recker left because he would have been stuck behind Gilbert Arenas and Richard Jefferson, two pretty decent players). Recker was able to get a waiver from the NCAA which allowed him to be eligible at the beginning of the 2000-01 season. This caused Recker to be even more despised in the state of Indiana, and during the only game he actually played in Bloomington, he was taunted the entire game, scoring only eight points in a 79-51 blow-out loss. One sign a fan held up said Indiana's Most Wanted, with a picture of Recker next to a picture of Osama Bin Laden.

Recker had a great year as a junior, averaging 18.1 ppg while hitting almost three 3's per, but was only able to suit up for 18 games because of a fractured knee-cap. He came back in 2001-2002, and led the Hawkeyes with 17.1 ppg while earning third team All-Big 10 honors. During the Big 10 tournament his senior year, Recker hit two consecutive game winners, the second of which came against Indiana.

Recker, who was a better than average athlete before the accident and the knee injury, never was really able to gain that athleticism back, and thus went undrafted after graduating. He played 34 games for Asheville in the NBDL in 2002-03, averaging just 8.9 ppg off the bench, before he decided to head over to Europe. He signed with Benetton Treviso in April of 2003 (for those of you that read WWATN, this should sound familiar) but he was released before ever playing a game. He then signed with Roseto in Italy in August, where he averaged 17.2 ppg. In 2004-05 he played with Girona in Spain, where he averaged 15.2 ppg, but only played in 19 games before being released. He spent the 2005-06 season with Livorno in Italy, averaging 14.5 ppg. Finally, in 2006, he landed somewhere for more than a year as he signed with Bilbao Basket in Spain, where he averaged 14.5 ppg in 2006-07 and 11.2 ppg in 2007-08. He will play for them again in 2008-09 alongside former NBA draft picks Fran Vazquez and Frederic Weis (yes, that Frederic Weis), and former Minnesota Golden Gopher Quincy Lewis.
Continue reading...

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

9/9 - Some Links, Some News

-This probably won't surprise anyone, but Derrick Caracter isn't actually attending Oklahoma City University of the NAIA. It appears that Caracter will be enrolling at Southern Mississippi, where he will have to sit out a year before he is eligible to play. While I'm happy that Caracter has a chance to play D1 basketball again, I don't see how he is going to put in the effort of working out, staying in shape, and going to class when he is not playing for a year when he could barely do that while playing.

On the other hand, Southern Mississippi is coached by Larry Eustachy, a guy who knows a thing or two about second chances. He was the coach of Iowa State that was caught drinking at a frat party after playing a road game at Missouri. Well, he landed at Southern Mississippi and hopefully he can get through to Caracter. If he does, Southern Miss could be pretty good in 2009-2010, as they also landed Angelo Johnson, a transfer from USC.

-Look at this amazing piece of investigative journalism (sarcasm alert): college athletes that play big time sports for big time schools get (gasp) accepted into schools as "special admits" (kids that are expected to need tutoring and extra attention to graduate) at higher rates than normal students. Seriously though, look at this chart, the numbers are pretty crazy. In 2004-05, 95% of the freshman football class at California were special admits, 94% at Texas A&M.

-Kansas's Morris twins, Markieff and Marcus, were both declared academically eligible for the season, and will begin taking classes this week (class officially started August 21st). Hopefully, Markieff's legal troubles will be solved by then.

-VCU's Eric Maynor had an infected toe, which kept him out of the teams three exhibition games during their trip to the Bahamas. He'll be healthy by the time the season starts, but Maynor sitting out allowed his two sophomore backups to get experience playing with the first team.

-Adam Gore, a senior starter and returning all-Ivy performer for Cornell, tore his acl and will be out for the season, which is a huge hit to Cornell's chances of repeating as Ivy League champs. Gore did the same thing to his other acl in the first game of the 2006-07 season.

-UConn recruit Ater Majok, a 6'9" athletic, power forward, will not be eligible until at least December. Apparently, his high school, the American International School in Sydney, Australia, will not release his transcript until the rest of his classmates finish their semester as well, which means that UConn could not turn over all of his paperwork to the NCAA Clearinghouse. Since it is already the third week of classes in Storrs, it is very unlikely that Majok will be able to get eligible and enroll in classes in time to start the season with the Huskies.

-Texas point guard recruit Dogus Balbay was suspended for the first game of the upcoming season. From 2004-2006, he played in 11 games for a professional team in his native Turkey. The NCAA suspended him on a 1-for-1 basis, and he was deemed eligible in March of last year and sat out the team's final 10 games.

-Southern Illinois junior guard Josh Bone has decided to transfer, and will leave the school in December at the end of this semester.
Continue reading...