Friday, October 30, 2009

John Wall suspended one game

Kentucky freshman John Wall was suspended by the NCAA for an exhibition game against Campbellsville and the season opener against Morehead State. He will also have to pay $800 in restitution for benefits he received from Brian Clifton, his AAU coach who was a certified agent at the time.

Morehead State is not a bad team (they made the tourney last year), and given the youth and inexperience on Kentucky's roster, it may hurt the Wildcats in the long run as Calipari's dribble-drive motion offense is fairly complicated to learn.

While I don't personally believe that Wall should be suspended, I think that Kentucky should not be too upset about the result. He could have lost as many as four games.
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No. 11: 2009-2010 Team Preview: Duke Blue Devils

2008-2009 Record: 30-7, 11-5 ACC (t-2nd)

Key Losses: Gerald Henderson (16.5 ppg, 4.9 rpg), Elliot Williams (4.2 ppg, 2.3 rpg), Greg Paulus (4.9 ppg)

Key Returners: Kyle Singler (16.5 ppg, 7.7 rpg), Jon Scheyer (14.9 ppg, 2.8 apg), Miles Plumlee (1.8 ppg, 1.4 rpg), Nolan Smith (8.4 ppg)

Newcomers: Andre Dawkins, Mason Plumlee, Ryan Kelly

Kyle Singler may end up being the ACC player of the year.
(photo credit: Duke Basketball Forever)

The last few seasons, Duke has been notorious for two things - relying on the three-ball to score and their pressuring, over-playing, man-to-man defense. But as the Blue Devils lose so much from their perimeter - Gerald Henderson, Elliot Williams, and Greg Paulus - we are going to be seeing a much different Duke team.

The biggest reason is that the Devils are going to be loaded on the interior this season. It starts with seniors Brian Zoubek and Lance Thomas. Zoubek had some fairly high expectations coming out of high school, but has never really found the consistency to be a real factor in ACC play. He isn't strong enough to battle down low and he isn't quick enough to really be a threat on the offensive end. Thomas has been a solid role player in this three years. An excellent athlete with a great motor, Thomas, who may end up coming off the bench, will provide Duke with defense and hustle.

The fact that two seniors may be relegated to the bench should tell you about the potential of this Duke front line. The crown jewels are the Plumlee brothers. Miles, a sophomore, had trouble earning a spot in the rotation last season. He struggled a bit offensively and seemed to get lost at times on the defensive end, but there is no denying his potential. At 6'10", 240 lb, Miles has the build to be an excellent shot blocker but he also has the skills and the athleticism to be a dangerous player on the offensive end. The question is will he put it all together?

Mason, a freshman, might have even more potential. He is a better athlete and more skilled offensively, and while Miles will be stronger in the paint this season after a summer in the weight room, Mason seems to be more of a face-up player. Mason will wreak havoc on the defensive end with his length and should be very dangerous in the open floor.

The other freshman big man is Ryan Kelly. Kelly should be able to fit in at Duke immediately. A lot of scouting reports you read about him are going to say that he plays a "European style". What that means is that the 6'10" Kelly has an offensive game based on the perimeter. He is an excellent shooter with range out to the college three, but he is also a decent ball handler and an excellent passer. Kelly may need a year to become an ACC caliber player on the defensive end, but he definitely will be contributing to the Devils right away.

And then there is Kyle Singler. What can I say about Singler that hasn't already been said? He is one of the best forwards in the country, and will get a chance to prove his ability playing almost exclusively as a three this season. He can shoot, he can get to the rim, he will defend, he can pass, he can rebound. The kid is simply a basketball player, and one of the best in the country. ACC player of the year and first team all-american? Its very possible.

As I said, the back court is where the issues will be this year. Duke only has three guards on the roster - Nolan Smith, Jon Scheyer, and Andre Dawkins. Smith is the guy a lot of people are saying will be the x-factor of this team. He is going to be starting at the point, and Duke is going to need to him to live up to the hype he had coming out of high school. An excellent defender and athlete for the point guard spot, Smith's offensive ability has been a bit inconsistent in his first two seasons. While he has shown flashes, he hasn't been the all-around scorer and playmaker he was expected to be.

You know what you are going to get out of Jon Scheyer. He's a heady scorer with a knack for hitting tough shots in the mid-range. An under-appreciated defender, Scheyer is a kid who was looked over a bit from a national perspective. The biggest issue for Scheyer is that he struggles when he has to play off the ball. Not because he doesn't have the ability, but because he is unable to take advantage of his size and strength against bigger defenders. Scheyer played his best basketball last season when Elliot Williams was moved into the starting line-up. All of a sudden, the big, strong, and athletic ACC two-guards were defending Williams, and Scheyer was able to go against the smaller point guards, taking advantage of his superior size and strength.

Which is why the signing and development of Andre Dawkins will be so important. Dawkins, who decided to enroll at Duke early instead of attend a fifth year of high school, is an extremely athletic 6'4" wing. He can score, he can defend, and he can get to the rim and finish. But will he be able to compete in the ACC as an 18 year old? If yes, than that will allow Scheyer to play a lot of minutes on the ball. If not, than Dawkins is still going to be playing a lot of minutes. Duke has no one else.

Outlook: The Blue Devils have a lot of potential on this team, and it is too early to peg them right now. I can see this team putting it all together and winning the ACC en route to a Final Four trip. But I can also see their bigs struggling inside, Nolan Smith unable to carry the torch, and the Dukies ending up outside the top 25 most of the year. With their size, length, and athleticism across the front line, and thanks to Coach K's time spent this summer with Jim Boeheim, Duke will be playing more zone than in years past. Will these guys learn to be effective in it? My prediction: 11-12 ACC wins, 24 or 25 wins on the year, and a trip to the Sweet Sixteen as a 4 or 5 seed.
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Top 10 (plus one) Sleeper Teams

In 2007-2008, Michigan won 10 games in John Beilein's first season at the helm. But last year, the Wolverines improved by 12 wins, advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Likewise, LSU was just 13-18 and 6-10 in the weak SEC West two seasons ago. But in Trent Johnson's first season, the Tigers went 27-8 en route to an SEC regular season title and a trip to the second round of the tournament.

Each and every season, there are teams that seemingly come out of nowhere to earn a trip to the NCAA Tournament. Who will be this season's sleepers? (Ed. Note: We are only considering teams not listed here as potential sleepers.)


Boston College: Yes, the Eagles did win 22 games last season, earning a seven seed in the Big Dance. But they also lost Tyrese Rice, their best player and leading scorer. But don't be fooled, the Eagles return a ton of talent. Joe Trapani is a fundamentally sound combo forward that will impress a lot of people this year, and Rakim Sanders is a mega-athlete that has the ability to be an all-league player. Throw Corey Raji and Reggie Jackson in the mix, and the Eagles should have no problem replacing the scoring they lost with Rice. If someone can step up and replace Rice's playmaking ability, BC should make a second consecutive trip to the dance.

Rakim Sanders will be one of the best players in the ACC this year.
(photo credit: Hoops Report)

Seton Hall: The Pirates return their top four scorers from last season, including arguably the best scorer in the Big East in Jeremy Hazell. Robert Mitchell and Eugene Harvery also return on the perimeter, as does big man John Garcia. But the key to the Pirates season will be the addition of three transfers - Keon Lawrence, Herb Pope, and Jamel Jackson. Bobby Gonzalez has a team that will be able to score with anyone in the country, the question is going to be will they be able to defend well enough to win some more games?

Texas A&M: Losing Josh Carter and Chinemolu Elonu will hurt, but the Aggies do return three starters and their best scorer off the bench. Seniors Donald Sloan and Brian Davis seem like they have been around forever, but they are quality experienced players that are primed to lead this team. Add to the mix four top 150 recruits, and Texas A&M has the horses to be a player in the Big XII.

Kansas State: K-State won 22 games last year, but missed out on the dance due to too few quality wins. They return one of the best starting back courts in the conference with Jacob Pullen and the electric Denis Clemente, which is good enough to win quite a few games on their own. Add to that getting a stellar incoming class, including UConn transfer Curtis Kelly and freshman Wally Judge, the Wildcats are going to have a lot of talent on their roster. There will be some inexperience, but this is a team that no one will want to play late in the season.

Denis Clemente will be one of the most dynamic scorers in the country.
(photo credit: Bleacher Report)

Oregon State: The Beavers surprised a lot of people by winning seven games last year in the Pac-10. When seven wins is a surprise, that should tell you about the state of basketball in Corvallis. The best news? Obama's brother-in-law, head coach Craig Robinson, returns seven of his top eight scorers and brings in a good recruiting class, headlined by Roberto Nelson. The Pac-10 may be down this season, but the Beavers have enough talent that they can compete for the third spot behind Cal and Washington. If Nelson can live up to the hype, he will combine with Calvin Haynes and Roeland Schaftenaar to form one of the best inside-outside combos out west.

Niagara: People are going to be talking about Siena coming out of the MAAC, but don't count out the Purple Eagles. This is a team that won 26 games last year (14 in the MAAC, including a split with Siena) and returns four of their five starters from a season ago. With a couple talented freshman joining the fray, Niagara will have the talent to win the league and earn a trip to the NCAA's. Be sure to mark Jan. 9th and Feb. 12th on your calenders - you won't want to miss the Niagara-Siena games this year.

BYU: True, the Cougars lose Lee Cummard, who was one of the best players out west last season. But they also return Jonathan Tavernari and Jimmer Fredette, which will be the best 1-2 in the MWC this season. All told, BYU returns four starters and six of their top seven players. The MWC is consistently one of the best basketball leagues outside of the BCS conferences, and BYU should be the cream of the crop this season.

Jimmer Fredette is a name you are going to hear a lot this season.
(photo credit: Utah Daily Herald)

Oakland: The Golden Grizzlies have two of the keys you need to be dangerous come tourney time - and excellent point guard in Johnathon Jones and a post presence in 6'11" Keith Benson. Losing the perimeter shooting of Erik Kangas is going to hurt, but expect sophomores Drew Maynard and Blake Cushingberry to more than make up for it.

Idaho: Harold Arceneaux. Stephen Curry. All you need in the NCAA Tournament is one unstoppable player and a mid-major has a chance to spring an upset. This year, that player may very well be Idaho's Mac Hopson. As a junior, Hopson averaged a stellar 16.4 ppg, 5.9 apg, and 5.0 rpg. Idaho will need some role players to step up around him to get there, but if the Vandals get into the dance, no coach is going to enjoy game-planning for this kid.

La Salle: Rodney Green could very well be the guy that steals the A-10 player of the year award from away from front runners Jordan Crawford and Chris Wright. Green is a talented scorer and play maker, but he is far from the only player that the Explorers bring back. Kimani Barrett and Ruben Guillandeaux will help carry the back court load, while Yves Mekongo Mbala will pick up the slack inside for the departed Vernon Goodridge. And remember, John Giannini landed Aaric Murray, a 6'10", 250 lb center that most recruitniks believed was top 10 at his position in the class of '09.

Rodney Green may be the best player in the A-10.
(photo credit: Atlantic 10)

Portland: Gonzaga and St.Mary's have had a strangle hold on the top two spots in the West Coast Conference over the past decade. But Eric Reveno brings back a veteran group that many believe could win the WCC this year. The Pilots will be led by 6'5" Nik Raivio, a strong scoring guard that averaged 16.0 ppg and 6.5 rpg. Add into the mix sharp shooter Jared Stohl (45.6% 3's) and point guard TJ Campbell, and Portland has a roster loaded with shooters. If this team gets hot, they will be able to run with just about anyone in the country.

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"The Street Stops Here"

If you are a basketball fan, then make sure you get a chance to see this film documenting the 2007-2008 St. Anthony's basketball team.



Remember, this team had seven current D1 players, incuding Villanova's Dominic Cheek, Rutgers' Mike Rosario, Kansas' Tyshawn Taylor, and Fordham's Jio Fontan.

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

No. 12: 2009-2010 Team Preview: Tennessee Volunteers

2008-2009 Record: 21-13, 10-6 SEC East (t-1st)

Key Losses: Josh Tabb (3.4 ppg), Emmanuel Negedu (1.9 ppg, 1.7 rpg)

Key Returners: Tyler Smith (17.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg, 3.4 apg), Wayne Chism (13.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg), JP Prince (9.9 ppg, 4.2 rpg, 1.5 spg), Bobby Maze (8.2 ppg, 3.3 apg)

Newcomers: Melvin Goins, Josh Bone, Skylar McBee

Tyler Smith will be the Vols leader once again.
(photo credit: YouGotDunkedOn)

As has been the case since Bruce Pearl arrived in Knoxville, Tennessee will be loaded with talent, athletes, and potential. The Vols get their top seven scorers back from last season, and a lot is going to be expected of this team.

The best player will once again be Tyler Smith. Smith is such a difficult match-up on the floor. He plays the power forward spot, but his skill set is much more suited to being a small forward. His offensive game is perimeter oriented, as he is the most successful when he is putting the ball on the floor and attacking. Smith is the best creator for the Vols, and since so many other guys on the floor are going to struggle to create their own shots, he will be instrumental in the Tennessee offense.

Joining Smith up front will be Wayne Chism. Chism is a big body in the post and has shown an ability to score with his back to the basket, but he has a tendency to fade to the perimeter. While Chism is not a bad shooter, in fact it is an asset because he does have some ability to put the ball on the floor, he will sometimes fall in love with the shot. The more he stays in the paint, the more effective Chism is. Brian Williams is the other big man on this roster. Williams has a soft touch and is an effective rebounder, but he has battled weight and conditioning issues throughout his career. Freshman Kenny Hall will also provide a lot of minutes. Hall gained a lot of hype throughout his senior season in high school. He is a 6'9", athletic big man that has shown signs of having a decent back-to-the-basket game.

At the point is where Tennessee had some issues last year. They were a bit thin to start the year as Ramar Smith, who was expected to share time with Bobby Maze, was kicked out of the program before the season started. Maze had a solid, if unspectacular, junior campaign. He showed flashes of being a big-time point guard, but all in all he was inconsistent. Tennessee is going to need more play-making from the point guard spot this year, and junior Melvin Goins may be able to help. Goins is a strong ball handler and creator, but he isn't the scoring presence that Maze is. He should also add some defensive intensity, which will be just as important.

On the wings, Tennessee has a number of guys that will play. JP Prince, Cam Tatum, Scottie Hopson, and Renaldo Woolridge will all play significant minutes. And to be honest, there is not a lot of difference between these guys. Prince is probably the best, as he is an excellent defender and can create off the bounce offensively. Cam Tatum was probably the most dangerous of the group on the offensive end. He is a bit streaky, but when he is hot he can score in bunches. Scottie Hopson and Renaldo Woolridge are similar players - they are both long, athletic perimeter guys with a ton of potential that have yet to really learn how to utilize their physical tools. When its all said and done, these four guys are essentially interchangeable, but if the Vols want to win the SEC, someone from this group is going to need to step up their game and become an all-league caliber player.

Outlook: Tennessee did not press as much as last season as many people expected. Why? Because they were young and Pearl did not think that they had the ability, especially in the back court, to be effective. This season, expect the Vols to play at a much quicker pace. Offensively, Tennessee is going to be at their best when they are playing in the full court. Outside of Smith, they really don't have anyone that opponents will fear in the half court. Maze is decent, Chism and Hall can be good, but overall they were stagnant and forced too many tough threes last season. If guys like Maze, Tatum, Goins, and Prince can provide the first level of defense on the Vols press, than Tennessee has a chance to be very, very good simply because there are so many guys that are long and athletic. Think about how effective Louisville's press was last season with Terrence Williams and Earl Clark wreaking havoc picking off passes. My biggest worry with Tennessee is that they did, in fact, bring everyone back. The Vols were a disappointing team given their talent level last season. Unless some of their key guys developed during the off-season, this ranking could look way too high come March.
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Michigan State lands Adreian Payne

Michigan State got a big addition to the 2010 recruiting class on Thursday as Tom Izzo earned a commitment from 6'10" center Adreian Payne live on ESPN U.

Payne is as highly regarded as recruits come. Rivals lists him at the 20th best senior in the country, while ESPN lists him at 23rd and Scout has him pegged at 21st.

6'10" center Adreian Payne has committed to Michigan State.
(photo credit: ESPN)

Payne is a long, athletic center. At this point in his career, he is known more for his defense than his offensive ability as his long arms make him an excellent shot blocker. Tom Izzo loves toughness inside, and if Payne can put on some strength, he could turn into a potential lottery pick playing in East Lansing.

Payne is the crown jewel in what is shaping up to be another great recruiting class for Izzo. He already has commitments from PG Keith Appling and forwards Russell Byrd and Alex Gauna.
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No. 13: 2009-2010 Team Preview: Clemson Tigers

2008-2009 Record: 23-9, 9-7 ACC (t-5th)

Key Losses: KC Rivers (14.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg), Terrence Oglesby (13.2 ppg, 38.8% 3's), Raymond Sykes (7.9 ppg, 5.1 rpg)

Key Returners: Trevor Booker (15.3 ppg, 9.7 rpg), Demontez Stitt (8.7 ppg, 3.8 apg), David Potter (4.9 ppg)

Newcomers: Milton Jennings, Devin Booker, Noel Johnson, Donte Hill

Trevor Booker dunks as hard as anyone in the country.
(photo credit: YouGotDunkedOn)

The Tigers of the last few seasons have been notorious for winning a lot of early, non-conference games, only to struggle down the stretch of ACC play and fizzle out in the NCAA Tournament. Last season was no different as Clemson was upset in the first round of the ACC Tourney and lost to Michigan in a 7-10 game in the Big Dance.

Hopefully for Oliver Purnell, this is the year that changes. Yes, the Tigers lost two of their top three scorers as KC Rivers graduated and Terrence Oglesby left for Norway, but he does return one of the best big men in the ACC in Trevor Booker. Booker has turned into a beast during his time at Clemson. Booker is not the most talented guy, but there may not be a more athletic and aggressive power forward in the country. He defends hard, he rebounds hard, he posts hard, he goes the rim hard. When Booker is on the floor, you know you are going to be getting 110% out of him, and when your star player is leaving everything he has on the floor, it is tough for the rest of the team not to follow suit.

What makes Booker so good for Purnell's system is his athleticism. He is mobile enough to play up front on the Tigers excellent press, but he is also big and strong enough to control the glass and defend the post. He can also play inside and outside on the offensive end. You don't want him taking six threes a game, but he has developed a good enough stroke that if you leave him open from the perimeter he can knock down some jumpers (he was 9-22 from deep last season). But if he is being guarded by the opposing four, he is able to put the ball on the floor for one or two dribbles either direction and get to the rim. An 18 and 10 season is not out of the question.

Joining Booker up front will be a typical Clemson front line, meaning they are loaded with long, rangy, athletic fours. The best of the bunch may end up being freshman Milton Jennings when it is all said and done. Jennings is 6'9" and very skilled, especially on the perimeter, but he still needs to improve his strength and get tougher inside. But skilled, rangy big men are the perfect fit for the system run at Clemson, and Jennings will thrive playing for Oliver Purnell. Jerai Grant and Devin Booker, Trevor's brother, will also see significant minutes up front. Grant is not overly skilled, but he plays hard, runs the floor, and is athletic enough to grab a few boards and block a few shots. The younger Booker is about where the elder was at this stage. He is an excellent athlete with some polished post moves, and if he can work as hard as Trevor, he should be an impact player immediately. Don't be surprised is 7'2" sophomore Catalin Baciu sees some increased minutes this season.

The point guard spot is going to be held down by junior Demontez Stitt, who I personally believe is one of the more underrated guards in the ACC. Stitt is an excellent on the ball defender, which makes him extremely valuable to Purnell. Offensively, he is quick with the ball and able to penetrate. As he gains more confidence in his scoring and passing ability, he will become more effective. His development will be crucial to the Tigers success this year as they lost a lot of scoring the past two seasons.

Perhaps the most important player on this team will be 6'6" freshman Noel Johnson. Johnson joins the Tigers with a reputation as a shooter and scorer from the perimeter, and with their only two perimeter threats leaving, he will be asked to contribute a lot immediately.

Joining Stitt and Johnson on the perimeter will be David Potter, Tanner Smith, and Andre Young. Potter and Smith are both excellent defenders with a lot of size (6'6" an 6'5", respectively). You know what you are going to get from those two in terms of defense and hustle, but they are going to need to increase their scoring if Clemson wants to become a player in the wide open ACC. Young is a quick, 5'9" sophomore that will back up Stitt. He may be a better offensive player than Stitt at this point in his career, taking better care of the ball and being a better shooter. But until he proves the ability to score inside the arc (he was just a 36% shooter from two) he will be just a role player. Also expect Brian Narcisse and Donte Hill, and extremely athletic 6'4" freshman, too provide quality minutes as well.

Outlook: I really like this Clemson team. While they lost some of their scoring from last season, they are going to be much more athletic this year. Trevor Booker will be in the conversation for ACC player of the year, so as long as guys like Stitt and Johnson live up to their expectations, and the role players on this team play hard and defend, Clemson should be in the race for the ACC crown. The Tigers run a tough press, and with the number of quality guards that left the ACC, it is feasible to believe that Clemson could bring home an ACC crown.
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Friday Morning Dump

15 signs of a dysfunctional office; United retires 737; No ski mask? No problem; A Galaxy far far away; Asta la vista, SanFran; Hip-hop isn't tolerated at Utah McDonalds; The funniest list you'll see all day; Porn or public service?; 15 awesome photos; Drive-by groin-kicking; 5-year-old hero; Really? I would have expected this to happen already; Place bets on ESPN sex scandals

- We talked about this possibility Wednesday, and yesterday the NCAA Board of Directors board passed recruiting reform package

- A-Rod has been un-clutch his whole life

- Nascar driver ate tacos, maybe ESPN's Greise was right?

- More on cross country "wardrobe malfunction"

- Karen Syphers is denied psych exam

- Despite Teague and Johnson going pro, Wake Forest is still good

- The Dagger breaks down Florida International

- California first in Pac-10 preseason rankings

- Colorado's Shannon Sharpe is having season-ending knee surgery.

- Which USC?

- Stanford's Jeremy Green is suspended indefinitly

- Naismith Award top 50 is unveiled

- Andy Katz on Georgetown's key to sucess

- Mike DeCourcy's breakdown of top 25

- Seth Davis on the "flop" rule

- The best backcourt in the country? Mizzou's Mike Anderson thinks he has it

- Adreian Payne chooses Michigan State

- A preview of the Southern Conference

- Indiana aint scurred of nobody

- Jay-Z and Alicia Keys from the World Series last night



- Is it bad that I find this video hilarious?


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No. 14: 2009-2010 Team Preview: Dayton Flyers

2008-2009 Record: 27-8, 11-5 A-10 (t-2nd)

Key Losses: Charles Little (8.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg)

Key Returners: Chris Wright (13.3 ppg, 6.6 rpg), Marcus Johnson (11.8 ppg, 3.1 rpg), London Warren (4.1 ppg, 4.4 apg), Rob Lowery (7.5 ppg, 3.4 apg)

Newcomers: Matt Kavanaugh, Josh Benson

Chris "Top Flyght" Wright returning to school is a major reason why Dayton is going to be a top 25 team this season.
(photo credit: Kansan)

Dayton may have been the deepest team in the country last season, as 12 guys averaged between 8.8 and 28.3 minutes per game. It should be more of the same next year, as 10 of those 12 return.

Dayton hangs their hat on defensive toughness and the ability to rebound, especially on the offensive end (the stats say it all - they averaged almost 14 offensive boards per game while holding their opponents the 39.7% shooting and 61.4 ppg). Its their system, its how they win, and there are few teams in the country that are tougher than this team.

It is difficult to name a leader for this team. Junior Chris Wright is clearly the kid with the most potential. At 6'8", 226 lb, Wright has earned the moniker "Top Flyght" because of the thuderous dunks his 39.5" vertical allows him to throw down. He probably made the right decision returning to school as he still relies too much on his tools, but as his mid-range game and his passing ability (he had 33 assists and 84 turnovers last year) continue to improve, don't be surprised if Wright wins the A-10 player of the year award.

But he may not even be the most valuable player on this team. Marcus Johnson, the second leading scorer and team leader in minutes and threes last season, is also the teams best defender. He would routinely guard an opponent's best scorer last season. What about London Warren? While he won't score all that much, Warren is the guy that makes this team go on both ends. He harasses the opposing point guard of the defensive end, but his passing and decision making (4.4 apg, 1.9 t/o's) helps keep the Dayton offense running smoothly. Then there is Rob Lowery. Lowery was Dayton's sixth man and spark plug off the bench last season, playing the role of back up point guard. But Lowery tore his patellar tendon with 10 games left in the year (he should be ready to go by January). With Lowery, Dayton was 23-2. Without him, they went 5-5.

There are two other back court players on the Flyers that should see time. One is Mickey Perry. A 6'2" senior, Perry was another guy that provided offense off the bench for Brian Gregory. The other is 6'4" sophomore Paul Williams. Williams played limited minutes as a freshman, but showed some promise as a player in this system.

The point you should take regarding the Flyers are truly a team - they are balanced, they are deep, they play together, and they each play the role they are assigned. If there is a question mark this year, it is who is going to take the place of Charles Little up front. There are quite a few options as well. For starters, Gregory could go smaller, sliding Wright to the four spot and putting 6'6" sophomore Chris Johnson in the starting line-up. Johnson is more of a perimeter player than a post due to his slender frame and shooting ability, but he was second on the team in rebounding last year at 5.2 per (2.1 on the offensive end).

But the Flyers also have the personnel to go big this year. Starting at center is 6'10" Kurt Huelsman. Huelsman isn't a great scorer, but he will get you some rebounds, block some shots, and basically just take up a lot of space on the interior. There are a myriad of options to play the four. Luke Fabrizius is a 6'9" sophomore forward who can shoot the lights out from three, but is not as big inside as some of the other guys on the team. Devin Searcy, a 6'10" junior, is a stronger presence defensively and on the glass, but he doesn't bring much to the table offensively. 6'9" Josh Benson was a highly touted freshman last season, but he is coming off of a torn rotator cuff that forced him to redshirt last year. Matt Kavanaugh is this season's talented freshman, a 6'9" monster that is physically ready to play at this level.

Outlook: This is Dayton's year. They lose seven seniors after the season, and likely will see Wright bolt for the league. With Xavier down this season, Dayton is the favorite to win the A-10, and should have the horses to make a run to the Sweet 16. They get a good early test with Georgia Tech and Derrick Favors in Puerto Rico, and if Rob Lowery comes back at 100%, I don't think 30 wins and a top four seed is out of the question.
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UPDATE: Preseason AP and Coaches Poll released

And it shouldn't shock anyone that Kansas is #1. The Spartans checked in at #2, with Texas, UNC, and Kentucky filling out the top five.

Full poll can be found here.

The AP poll is expected to be released later today has also been released. The top three remains the same, but Kentucky and Villanova vault UNC into the 4th and 5th spots while the Heels drop to 6th.

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Thursday Morning Dump

If state flags were honest (somewhat NSFW); Who cheats at sudoku?; A map of douchebags; Halloween candy nobody wants; Awesome tombstones; Another mother of the year candidate; I thought people wanted to get OUT of North Korea?; Robbers have to pay bills too; A first-class garage; Florida man claims he was too fat to commit murder; If the Batmobile were real, this would be it; Marching band plays "numa numa" song; Freakishly-strong child.

- John Wall played great at the Blue and White scrimmage, but he is still not cleared by the NCAA.

- Yesterday we reported that UFC heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar has H1N1. Now his opponent at UFC 106 also has the flu.

- Football player bashes referee's face with helmet.

- Not Mercury Morris again....

- The ESPN brass continues its power trip, fires ex-QB Shaun King

- The Wizard's Caron Butler uses the LenDale White diet plan, kinda.

- Gary Parrish ranks the best Non-BCS teams.

- Jay Bilas gives us his top ten players most under the radar.

- Jeff Goodman writes about Michigan's love for John Beilein.

- Luke Winn on Kansas raising another championship banner.

- Josh Tabb withdraws from Tennessee

- Steph Curry sent out 2,000 thank you cards to Davidson fans.

- Good article about Johnny Dawkins' rebuilding process at Stanford.

- Rutgers lands their second recruit in as many days.

- South Carolina's Devan Downey out with the flu.

After the jump, a whole new take on The Big Lebowski.

Girls in bikinis do their best "Big Lebowski" impressions



Behind the back pass for two in high school football. Woulda been awesome if they weren't up 56-0 at the time...


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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Kentucky is streaming their Blue and White scrimmage

A bit late on this, but if you so desire (and are not invested in this World Series) you can watch Kentucky's Blue and White scrimmage as it is streamed live.

Does any other school in the country do this?

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NCAA to possibly change recruiting rules

For college basketball purists, this past summer was one to forget.

It seemed like every week, a new report was published making the college basketball landscape, particularly the recruiting aspect, seem like a cesspool.

But according to ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil, that may all be changing very soon. From the WWL.com:

Fed up and frustrated by the state of their game, coaches have contributed their opinions and feedbacks to a package of legislation that the NCAA Division I board of directors will consider on Thursday.

The recruiting reform package has one aim -- to curb the payola in college basketball -- and already has received the endorsement of the conference commissioners and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Among the meatier suggestions in the package:

• Eliminating so-called package deals, making it nearly impossible for a college program to hire any of the myriad of hangers-on associated with prospective student-athletes.

• Disallowing college coaches to subscribe to recruiting services run by people associated with prospects. This would curtail services offered by AAU programs (and others) that charge colleges to subscribe but sometimes offer little to no information on the prospect.

• Preventing payment to nonprofit organizations benefiting summer-club teams, prospects or people attached to prospects.

• Preventing coaches from hiring outsiders to work at their camps and clinics
My initial reaction?

IT'S ABOUT FREAKIN' TIME!!

Did anyone not expect this to happen?

With the amount of coverage college hoops recruiting got this past summer (when no one is supposed to care about college basketball), did you really think that a change wasn't going to be made?

I'd even be willing to wager a good amount of money that it was college coaches feeding the reporters the stories this summer. What better way to force a change in the NCAA rulebook than to create a national furor through the media? I know I wasn't the only one disgusted with what I read this summer.

Out of the four changes that the coaches are pushing for, there is only one that I question - limiting the people that can work at your summer camp to students and employees of the university. When you are a young, aspiring coach, working these camps is how you network. You may not land a job because you coached at, say, Florida's summer camp for a couple weeks, but you may meet someone that knows about an opening at an Oklahoma. Or maybe you work at UConn's summer camp and impress a guy like George Blaney enough that he passes your name along to the myriad of former Husky assistants.

You get my point.

Anyway, as excited as I am to hear about this, don't, for a second, think that it will completely clean up college hoops. There are going to be loopholes in every rulebook, and with the what-have-you-done-for-me-lately nature of the college basketball, collegiate coaches are some of the most innovative and intelligent people when it comes to bending, but not breaking, the rules.
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UPDATE: Bobby Knight not attending HOF ceremony

UPDATE: According to Dickie V (via Twitter), Bobby Knight will not be attending Indiana's Hall of Fame ceremony. Can't say I'm surprised.


Back in August, news came out that Bob Knight was going to be inducted into the Indiana University hall of fame. Many were critical of this decision by IU, mainly because most believed it a long shot that Knight would be willing to let bygones be bygones.

But last week, private donors (read Indiana alumni) decided to give Knight $75,000 to settle a lawsuit filed against the University by Knight.

Olive branch extended.

But on Monday, Knight returned that check.

Why?

Because, as Knight said, his issue is with the university, not the alumni.

Maybe he isn't going to be at the induction ceremony after all...

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Does Kyrie Irving owe Adam Zagoria an apology?

That is the question that The Dagger is asking today.

You see, last week, Adam Zagoria, a reporter for SNY.tv that also runs the website ZagsBlog, broke the news that Kyrie Irving had made the decision to attend Duke. Irving denied that story via his Twitter, but two days later he committed to Duke live on ESPN U.

Kyrie Irving has drawn some criticism for his reaction to Adam Zagoria's scoop last week.
(photo credit: Rise)

The problem is that it seems that Irving had made a commitment, and thus Zagoria had an accurate scoop. (If you believe Seth Davis, Irving committed during his official visit to Duke, but he wanted to visit Texas A&M as a favor to his father's coach and go to Big Blue Madness because, well, its Big Blue Madness and he's Kyrie Irving.) Irving just wanted as large of an audience as possible during his live announcement, which he even admitted to ESPN U's Lowell Galindo, saying "I had to keep everybody in suspense. Somebody wrote that prematurely, but it didn't really have a hindrance on my decision at all. I really enjoyed ESPN doing this for me and it's just been great that I could announce it here."

This prompted two very well-known college basketball writers to call for an apology from Irving:
  • Seth Davis via Hoop Thoughts:
    Make no mistake: Kyrie Irving is worth the hype. He is the best guard Duke has recruited since Jay Williams, and he is a terrific student to boot. But since he has been playing the media game so deftly, he should do what a real media organization is supposed to do when it publishes something that's wrong: He should issue a correction. At the very least, he should apologize to Adam Zagoria. Unlike Kyrie, he got the story right.
  • Gary Parrish via The Thoughts:
    Credit SNY's Adam Zagoria with the scoop. He had this nailed two days ago, wrote it and had to deal with Irving refuting his story publicly. As a journalist, I can tell you there's nothing more frustrating than having an accurate story refuted. So it was nice to see Zagoria vindicated, and Irving probably owes him an apology via Twitter, at least.
Personally, I don't think Irving owes Zagoria an apology.

Zagoria has a job to do. He heard a rumor, talked to some credible sources, got the information he needed, and wrote about it. That's his job, and he did it to perfection in this case.

But Irving is a 17 year old kid who is enjoying his time in the spotlight. Clearly, he was excited about the opportunity to announce his college choice on ESPN U. When an article from a very good and reliable journalist stole his thunder, how did you think he was going to react?

Zagoria clearly took no offense, so why should the rest of us?
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No. 15: 2009-2010 Team Preview: Oklahoma Sooners

2008-2009 Record: 30-6, 13-3 Big XII (2nd)

Key Losses: Blake Griffin (22.7 ppg, 14.4 rpg), Taylor Griffin (9.6 ppg, 5.8 rpg), Austin Johnson (8.6 ppg, 3.9 apg)

Key Returners: Willie Warren (14.6 ppg, 3.1 apg), Tony Crocker (9.6 ppg, 3.2 rpg)

Newcomers: Tommy Mason-Griffin, Steven Pledger, Andrew Fitzgerald, Ryan Randolph, Tiny Gallon, Kyle Hardrick

Willie Warren will need to pick up the scoring load with Blake Griffin gone.
(photo credit: SLAMOnline)

Oklahoma was not a deep team last season, as Jeff Capel rarely went with a rotation of more than seven players. That problem does not look like it is going to change this season, as the Sooners lost three starters and two more guys that became significant role players by the end of the year.

The biggest hole Capel is going to have to fill is up front, obviously. Not only did he lose the Brothers Griffin, but in May 6'6" forward Juan Pattillo, who was expected to come in and provide a lot of energy and minutes this season, was kicked off the team. That means that Capel is going to be forced to rely on three freshmen and two relatively inexperienced seniors in the paint. The best of the bunch will probably be Keith "Tiny" Gallon. Gallon, a freshman who is 6'9" and pushing 300 lb, is skilled for someone his size. He has quick feet, he can score with his back to the basket, he can handle the ball, and he has three point range. The problem right now is that he tends to float to the perimeter too much, especially when he doesn't see the ball enough. But if Gallon can get into better shape, he should get plenty of touches inside.

Freshman Andrew Fitzgerald is similar to Tiny in that he is a big-bodied 6'8" forward. Also lacking a bit in the athleticism department, Fitzgerald is going to push people around, rebound the ball, and rack up fouls on opposing big men. The third freshman, Kyle Hardrick, is going to be an effort guy. He played on a loaded high school team (with fellow Big XII newcomer Xavier Henry), and settled into a role of rebounder, screener, and defender. He is big and athletic, and if he plays hard, Capel will have to find time for him.

The two seniors are Ryan Wright and Orlando Allen. Wright was a highly regarded recruit coming out of high school, but has never put it together. He is strong and athletic, however, so it will be interesting to see if he develops with time opening up in the front court. Allen is a 6'10" center who has battled weight issues in his two year in Norman.

The back court is less of a question mark. It will be anchored by potential all-american Willie Warren. Warren had a slow start to his freshman season, but really developed to the point that by the end of the year some thought he would have been a lottery pick had he left. He is best when he is looking for his shot, first and foremost. What makes him so dangerous is that he has NBA range on his three, but is just as effective in the mid-range. He is also one of the most athletic wings in the country and can finish above the rim with the best of them.
While he has the handle and the passing ability to be a primary ball-handler (as he showed last season), Warren is a scorer and will excel playing off the ball.

Which is why landing Tommy Mason-Griffin was so important for Jeff Capel. Mason-Griffin is one of the most highly touted point guard recruits in the country. He is a bit small (listed at 5'10"), but he is quick enough to get into the lane against anyone, can knock down threes from NBA range, and most importantly he is a point guard; he will run the offense, find open players, and can learn a lot from Capel, a former point guard.

Joining Mason-Griffin and Warren on the perimeter will be senior Tony Crocker and junior Cade Davis. Crocker's numbers dipped a bit during his junior season, especially his three point percentages. He is really the only other guy on the Sooners that has any proven ability to score. If Oklahoma wants to remain near the top of the league, the Sooners need Crocker to be a 13-15 ppg guy. Davis is a shooter. He struggled with his confidence and his consistency during last season, but when he gets hot he is as good as anyone in the conference. Don't be surprised is freshman Steven Pledger and sophomore Ray Willis also see time.

Outlook: There are a lot of question marks on this OU team. Will their inexperienced big men be able to handle the Big XII? Will Tony Crocker show up this year? If Tommy Mason-Griffin ready to handle the point guard duties? With the amount of youth that is on this roster, I don't expect Oklahoma to start the year as one of the best teams in the country. But with this amount of talent, and one of the best players in the country, OU will be in the mix by the end of the season.
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Wednesday Morning Dump

The clipper's curse continues; how did this person ever get their license?; This past Sunday wasn't a good day for bookies; Two-face; Imagine how big the other shark must have been; The six coolest homes on television; She'd have to be hotter than this for me to give up World Series tickets; Old man beats up robber with a big gulp; I hate sitting next to these people on flights; The 25 hottest celebrity Halloween costumes; I've never understood animal smuggling; Vigilante book censoring; Technically, this isn't a hit-and-run; the worst thing you will read all day.

- Daniel Snyder doesn't like homemade signs. He also wont allow you to insult him.

- Andre Agassi used crystal meth AND played tennis

- UFC Heavyweight champ Brock Lesnar has H1N1 virus.

- High school cross country team gets disqualified for "wardrobe malfunction".

- Dallas's DeMarcus Ware wanted one more dollar.

- Man faces murder charges in UConn stabbing case.

- Duke and UCLA have the most NBA players on current rosters.

- J.J. Reddick is going to release a hip-hop album.

- Coach Cal's speech from big blue madness is getting translated.

- Mike DeCourcy on Syracuse's options at point guard.

- Adam Zagoria chats with Villanova coach Jay Wright.

- Bobby Knight doesn't want your money.

- Rod Odom decommits from Arizona, chooses Vandy.

- Austin Carroll verbally commits to Rutgers.

- Hampton player is killed in accidental shooting.

- Florida's Nimrod Tishman is cleared to play.

- Great read on Seton Hall's Jordan Theodore.

After the jump, another defensive back who doesnt know how to tackle.

Georgia Tech's Jonathen Dwyer blows up a Virginia defensive back



The best sports commercial ever, side-by-side



This might be the greatest golf shot ever


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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Buzz Bissinger goes off on the one-and-done rule

You know who Buzz Bissinger is, right?

The author of Friday Night Lights. The guy who ripped blogs and bloggers, specifically Deadspin's Will Leitch, on Costas Now.

Bissinger was back in the news today as he wrote an Op-Ed for the New York Times critiquing the NBA's 19 year old age limit. Bissinger's argument is, well, spot on. (Did you expect anything less?)

Essentially, the gist of the article is that there is no statistical evidence that says kids coming out of high school are any less likely to succeed in the NBA than a player that went through four years of college. And the best part about it - he uses cold, hard facts, not just opinion.

Consider:

  • 21 high schoolers were drafted between 1975-2001. The number of kids that didn't reach the league was equal to the number that became superstars (four - Kevin Garnett, Kobe Bryant, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady).
  • Between 2002-2005, of the 26 high schoolers picked, 20 are still in the NBA and three (Amare Stoudamire, Dwight Howard, and LeBron James) became stars.
  • Kids coming out of high school were responsible for 4.8% of the last 84 NBA arrests (they make up 8.3% of the league). More than half of those 84 came from four year college kids.
  • Between 1996-2006, players drafted as high schoolers had better rookie seasons efficiency-wise than those taken after 3-4 years in school.
Seriously, read the article.

The facts are there.

But despite the arguments, despite the logic, and despite the facts provided, this rule will never change.

There is too much money on the line.

That's why it was established in the first place. It wasn't to keep NBA front office types and agents out of high school gyms (because clearly that didn't happen). It wasn't to try and get these kids to become educated, because after the first semester one-and-done's don't face any ramifications for not going to class.

It was done for the money. The NCAA gets to have the stars fill seats, sell jerseys, and draw TV ratings while NBA execs get to see them play one year of major college basketball. When you are investing millions in a teenager, it is a bit more comforting to see him play on a national stage for 30-some odd games than to throw that much money at a recent high school graduate.

Personally, I go back and forth on the issue. Allowing kids to go one-and-done is terrible for the climate of college basketball; it makes it nearly impossible to keep the recruiting process and educational procedures clean.

That said, ideally I would like to believe that making these kids attend college is a good thing. Maybe they like the idea of getting an education. Maybe they end up realizing that going pro out of high school would have been a mistake and work their tails off to become an NBA player. And maybe they end up dogging it through a year at college, and fizzle out in the NBA after their rookie contract.

Whatever it is, forcing kids to go to school for just one year doesn't make any sense. While forcing them to go for two or three years is not a bad idea, I have trouble believing that it is fair to force an 18 year old, an adult in our society that is allowed to go to war, to put off his earning potential for a year.
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No. 16: 2009-2010 Team Preview: Ohio State Buckeyes

2008-2009 Record: 22-11, 10-8 Big Ten (t-4th)

Key Losses: BJ Mullens (8.8 ppg, 4.7 rpg),

Key Returners: Evan Turner (17.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 4.0 apg), William Buford (11.3 ppg, 3.7 rpg), Jon Diebler (11.2 ppg, 3.5 rpg)

Newcomers: Zisis Sarikopoulos

Evan Turner might be the best all-around player in the country.
(photo credit: SI)

Ohio State has had a bad run when it comes to NBA Draft early entrants. Greg Oden, Mike Conley Jr., Daequan Cook, Kosta Koufus, and BJ Mullens all in the last three years. As grim as that sounds, the news is not all bad. Thad Matta and the Buckeyes caught a break back in the spring when Evan Turner announced that he would be coming back to Columbus for his junior season despite being projected as a lottery pick.

On a team loaded along the perimeter, Turner is the best of the bunch. The best all-around player in the country (Lester Hudson was the only other guy to average 17 ppg, 7 rpg, and 4 apg last season), Turner's ability to create and handle the ball will be his biggest asset to this year's Buckeyes as the 6'7" forward will be the primary ball-handler for Matta. Not the greatest athlete in the world, Turner is effective because of his excellent footwork and his stop-and-go ability. His jump shot is a work in progress (he hit 44% from deep last year, but only took 25 threes), but he is a smart player when he is going to the rim. He knows when to pass, when to pull-up, and when to get all the way to the rim. While the Buckeyes do have talent elsewhere, they are going to go as far as Turner takes them.

Playing the wings this season for Matta will be William Buford and Jon Diebler. Diebler is a shooter, through and through. At 6'6", Diebler is able to get his shot off against most defenders, and when he gets hot he is as deadly as anyone in the country. Buford is a more intriguing player. Also a shooter, Buford is more effective in the mid-range. He was so good as a freshman at making decisions coming off of screens, whether it was to shoot, to curl, to fade. He still has a lot of room for improvement, however, as bettering his ball-handling and quickness will make him a more dangerous offensive weapon. Overall, having two players with the shooting ability of Buford and Diebler will keep driving lanes open for Turner.

The x-factor for Ohio State is going to be David Lighty. Lighty came into Ohio State as a hyped freshman, but after two relatively disappointing seasons and a junior year cut short by a broken bone in his foot, Matta hopes that Lighty can return to the form that made him a top 50 recruit. Lighty is a nice complement to Buford and Diebler in that he is a strong, athletic slasher. His jump shot still needs work (although I suspect that it will be improved after this injury), but Lighty will prove to be a huge addition if he can be a capable slasher.

Two other guys should be expected to get time in the Buckeye back court - seniors Jeremie Simmons and PJ Hill. The two split time last season after Anthony Crater transferred out of school. Simmons is the better scorer, but by the end of the season Hill had moved into the starting line-up. Both will likely end up coming off the bench this season, and at the very least deferring to Turner in crucial minutes.

Up front is where Ohio State is going to have problems. Two weeks ago, Dallas Lauderdale, who was expected to start at center for the Buckeyes, broke a bone in his hand that required surgery. While there is a chance he will be back in time for OSU's first game, it is more likely that he will miss a couple of weeks. Lauderdale is huge for the Buckeyes, as he is really the only tough interior presence on their roster. Lauderdale is only 6'8", but his length and athleticism make him an effective shot-blocker and exceptional finisher.

But behind him there isn't all that much. Zisis Sarikopoulos is a 7'0" transfer from UAB, but in his one season there he was fairly ineffective. Kyle Madsen is 6'9" and will give Matta energy and five fouls, but he is not going to be much of a threat on either end.

Outlook: Where Ohio State is going to excel this season is defensively. If they go with a line-up of four wings (Turner, Diebler, Lighty, and Buford), the zone they play is going to be very dangerous. All four are long and athletic, which will make it difficult to pass through and shoot over the zone. As I said earlier, this team is going to go as far as Turner takes them, but the development of Buford, Lighty, or Diebler into a dangerous scorer could keep in the race for the Big Ten title, as will a quick recovery by Lauderdale.
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Kenny "KD" Dobbs ... yea, he can jump

You know what I think?

I think that the NBA, or to a lesser extent the NCAA, should create a new all-star festivity where the pro's take on the best street ballers in a dunk contest.

Because there is no way that this guy would ever lose. Ever.

Make sure you watch the whole thing.



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Top 50 Non Conference Games of '09-'10

How often do you see it?

A team makes a run through their conference, finishing 10-6 with 22 wins on the season, but because they played cupcakes and charmin before conference play began, that team is banished to the NIT.

Non-conference games can be just as exciting as seeing two conference rivals go at it. Who doesn't want to see Rick Pitino make his first trip into Rupp since the scandal? Who wouldn't want to watch two Final Four favorites go had-to-head in November? Who doesn't enjoy seeing teams like Tulsa, or Butler, or Gonzaga given a chance to knock off one of the big boys?

After the jump, a list of the 50 best non-conference games on the 2009-2010 season.

  1. Dec. 1st - Michigan State @ UNC (ACC/Big Ten Challenge): Michigan State looks to get revenge against the Tar Heels for the two beat-downs they took at Ford Field last season. Oh yeah, and it is a rematch of the national title game. It will be interesting to see how Larry Drew will handle going up against one of the best point guards in the country in Kalin Lucas. The Spartans will have a shot to win this on the road if they can handle UNC's size inside.

  2. Dec. 19th - UNC @ Texas (at Cowboy Stadium): The two teams with arguably the two best front lines in the country go toe-to-toe at the new Dallas Cowboy's Stadium. Both teams come into the season with concerns in their back court, so the winner may come down to who wins the battle in the paint - the stronger Longhorns or the more athletic Tar Heels.

  3. Dec. 5th - UNC @ Kentucky: The defending national champs (who, if you haven't noticed, play a non-conference schedule that may be tougher than their ACC schedule) head to Rupp Arena to take on John Calipari's Wildcats. UNC has not been known for their perimeter defense over the last few seasons, so will their perimeter guys be up to the task against talented freshmen John Wall and Eric Bledsoe?

  4. Dec. 9th - UConn vs. Kentucky (at MSG for SEC/Big East Invitational): There is a lot to like about this match-up. Both teams will have athletes up and down their roster; both teams play an exciting, fast-paced style of basketball; and it is well-known that Jim Calhoun and John Calipari aren't exactly best friends, stemming from Cal's time at UMass.

  5. Dec. 22nd - Michigan State @ Texas: Two legitimate Final Four candidates go head-to-head. Texas is big this year, while Michigan State is going to be much more perimeter oriented than the Spartan teams you are used to seeing. But can the Longhorns young back court handle MSU's experienced and talented perimeter players

  6. Jan. 2nd - Louisville @ Kentucky: Already one of the best rivalries in the sport, this game will be taken to an entirely new level. John Calipari is the best coach the Wildcats have had since Rick Pitino, and the two don't exactly see eye-to-eye. It has been a while since excitement has been this high in Lexington, and given that the Wildcats are better than the Cardinals for the first time in a while, Big Blue Nation should be rearing to go. It should be fun to see how well UK's freshmen handle the Louisville pressure.

  7. Jan. 23rd - Texas @ UConn: This games features an interesting contrast of styles. The kinetic, up-tempo Huskies will take on the bigger, more deliberate Longhorns. The best individual match-up? Avery Bradley and Kemba Walker, two talented point guards who may be the best two defenders at the position.

  8. Jan. 1st - West Virginia @ Purdue: You like defense? you like tough, hard-nosed basketball? Well, then this is the perfect game for you. There may not be a better fundamental defensive team in the country than Purdue, but they will have their hands full with Devin Ebanks, Da'Sean Butler, and the rest of the Mountaineers. This game will be won on the glass. Purdue does not have much size inside behind JaJuan Johnson, and WVU has an endless line of strong, athletic, 6'7" forwards that go hard to the glass.

  9. Dec. 12th - Butler @ Ohio State: I love this Butler team, but Ohio State is going to be better than some people expect. Seeing Gordon Hayward and Evan Turner go at each other is going to be a pleasure to watch, but the key to this game is going to be who wins the Matt Howard-Dallas Lauderdale (assuming he is healthy) match-up down low.

  10. Jan. 10th - Kansas @ Tennessee: This game will be the final tune-up for a talented Jayhawks team before they begin their conference season. Tennessee was a bit disappointing last season, as a roster full of talented athletes struggled defensively and never found a rhythm on the offensive end. The Vols do have the pieces to give Kansas a game, especially since the game is at home.

  11. Jan. 17th - UConn @ Michigan: The Wolverines look to get revenge for a loss at the hands on the Huskies last season. Will UConn have the shooting and the defensive discipline to handle John Beilein's system?

  12. Nov. 26th - Butler vs. Minnesota (at the 76 Classic in Anaheim): In what is probably the best guaranteed match-up in the pre-season tournaments, the Bulldogs take on an underrated Golden Gophers team.

  13. Dec. 22nd - Cal @ Kansas: Cal is going ot be one of the most fun teams in the country to watch, but will they have the talent (and the size) to take on the Jayhawks?

  14. Dec. 8th - Vanderbilt @ Illinois: Vanderbilt returns everyone for a team that could be a sleeper in the SEC East, but the Illini could compete for the Big Ten crown if their young back court delivers.

  15. Dec. 19th - Michigan @ Kansas: Kansas may be the best team in America, but the Wolverines have some talent on their roster as well. If Michigan is hitting their threes, they will be able to play with anyone in the country.

  16. Dec. 19th - Duke vs. Gonzaga (at MSG): Gonzaga and Duke are both nationally recognized programs with question marks. Duke's got a great front line, but a shallow back court. The Zags have a very good back court, but not much size inside.

  17. Dec. 12th - Washington vs. Georgetown (Wooden Classic): The Hoyas, who are looking to bounce back from a disappointing season, play a very controlled, Princeton-style offense, while the Huskies are going to try and play at a frenetic pace.

  18. Nov. 17th - Gonzaga @ Michigan State: Both teams have some front court question marks, but it should be a delight to see Kalin Lucas and Demetri Goodson go at it.

  19. Nov. 19th - Dayton vs. Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets have a chance to be one of the best teams in the ACC this season, but Dayton returns basically everyone from a team that reached the second round of the tournament last year.

  20. Jan. 23rd - West Virginia @ Ohio State: The Mountaineers beat the snot out of the Buckeyes last season, but with Evan Turner and company back, OSU looks to be one of the teams that will remain near the top of the Big Ten all season.

  21. Dec. 6th - Kansas @ UCLA
  22. Dec. 10th - Florida vs. Michigan State (Legends Classic)
  23. Dec. 31st - Oklahoma vs. Gonzaga in Seattle
  24. Dec. 10th - Syracuse vs. Florida (SEC/Big East)
  25. Dec. 2nd - Florida State @ Ohio State
  26. Nov. 24th - Florida State @ Florida
  27. Dec. 8th - Georgetown vs. Butler in MSG (Jimmy V)
  28. Feb. 25th - Tulsa @ Duke
  29. Dec. 2nd - Minnesta @ Miami (ACC/Big Ten)
  30. Dec. 2nd- Siena at Georgia Tech
  31. Jan. 3rd - Xavier at Wake Forest
  32. Nov. 17th - Memphis vs. Kansas in St. Louis in Basketball Hall of Fame Showcase
  33. Dec. 5th - Wake Forest at Gonzaga
  34. Dec. 19th - UCLA @ Notre Dame
  35. Dec. 2nd - Illinois at Clemson (ACC/Big Ten)
  36. Dec. 6th - Villanova vs. Maryland at Verizon Center
  37. Dec. 13th - Cincinnati at Xavier
  38. Dec. 19th - Xavier at Butler
  39. Dec. 31st - Memphis at Tennessee
  40. Dec. 6th - South Carolina at Clemson
  41. Dec. 1st - Wake Forest at Purdue (ACC/Big Ten)
  42. Dec. 2nd - Oklahoma State at Tulsa
  43. Dec. 6th - Arizona at Oklahoma (Pac-10/Big 12)
  44. Feb. 13th - Xavier at Florida
  45. Jan. 2nd - Gonzaga vs. Illinois in Chicago
  46. Jan 31st - Duke at Georgetown
  47. Feb. 6th - Gonzaga at Memphis
  48. Dec. 23rd - Mississippi at West Virginia
  49. Dec. 2nd - Duke at Wisconsin (ACC/Big Ten)
  50. Dec. 30th - South Carolina at Boston College

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UCLA's injuries continue to pile up

UCLA has been hit by the injury bug.

Bad.

J'Mison Morgan has an injured left knee; Malcolm Lee has a concussion; Jerime Anderson re-injured a nagging groin injury; Brendan Lane rolled an ankle; Mike Moser just returned to practice after straining his back; James Keefe also returned to practice after injuring shoulder; even Tyler Honeycutt (back fracture) and Ben Howland (appendectomy) dealt with serious injuries over the summer.

Michael Roll is the latest Bruin to go down.
(photo credit: pe.com)

And now, Michael Roll, who is expected to start on the wing for the Bruins, is out after spraining his right ankle.

While nothing here seems to really be season-ending, this bigger issue is that it takes away from practice time. These kids aren't going to be getting into shape. They aren't going to be learning the system that Howland wants to run this season. Hell, with this many people out, being able to go 5-on-5 in practice is going to be tough.

Injuries are never easy to deal with, especially when they pile up like this. But if you are going to get hurt, dealing with it in October is much better than if it were to happen in March.

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Tuesday Morning Dump

Some people actually take Scientology seriously.; New Mexico probably isnt the best place to do this; "Negative Ghost Rider, the pattern is full"; Kindergarten Career Advisors?; Paternity Reactions; Not all of the BCS selection commitee are nerds; Pau Gasol on CSI: Miami; Irv Gotti's son hangs out with William Wesley and Michael Gilchrist..

- Viking's head coach dresses like a women.

- New NCAA rule regarding being allowed to play professionally overseas.

- I was pretty sure Mark McGwire was blacklisted from the Major Leagues

- Former Texas A&M guard dies during Game in Portugal.

- Completely agree - Matt Howard is going to be the most important player for Butler.

- Montgomery has been the difference for Cal.

- Great article about former Minnesota head coach Dan Monson

- Villanova's Reggie Reading talks about sitting out due to drug arrest

- After the jump, a cat that really likes water.



- Mark Sanchez Eats a Hot Dog on the Sideline



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Monday, October 26, 2009

No. 17: 2009-2010 Team Preview: UConn Huskies

2008-2009 Record: 31-5, 15-3 Big East (t-2nd)

Key Losses: AJ Price (14.7 ppg, 4.7 apg), Hasheem Thabeet (13.6 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 4.2 bpg), Jeff Adrien (13.6 ppg, 9.9 rpg)

Key Returners: Kemba Walker (8.9 ppg, 2.9 apg) Jerome Dyson (13.2 ppg, 4.1 rpg), Stanley Robinson (8.5 ppg, 5.9 rpg)

Newcomers: Alex Oriakhi, Ater Majok, Jamaal Trice, Darius Smith, Jamal Coombs-McDaniel

Stanley Robinson returns to the Huskies as arguably the best athlete in the country.
(photo credit: Inside Hoops)

UConn loses may lose more key pieces from last year's squad than any team in the country. Gone are AJ Price, Jeff Adrien, and Hasheem Thabeet, the Huskies three leading scorers from a year ago. But that doesn't meant the Huskies don't return any talent. With guys like Kemba Walker, Jerome Dyson, and Stanley Robinson deciding to come back to school, UConn is going to look like the Huskies of old this season.

Jim Calhoun's teams used to be known for their athleticism, their defensive pressure, and a helter-skelter style of play that resulted in a fast-paced game. The last couple of season's, Calhoun has veered away from that style as Price, Adrien, and Thabeet were all better suited to a slow, grind-it-out pace that allowed the Huskies to take advantage of their size on the interior. The Huskies won't have that size advantage this season, but what they will have is an athleticism advantage.

Kemba Walker will be the engine to this year's team. Walker is as quick and athletic as any point guard in the country. He is a terror defensively, utilizing those quicks to harass opposing ball-handlers. On the offensive end, Walker is going to be counted on to lead quite a few fast breaks. He has the speed and the ball-handling ability to get into the lane whenever he pleases, but last season he was a bit inconsistent once he got there - he forced some tough shots and committed a few too many turnovers. With a year of experience under his belt, Walker should be able to improve on that. This is going to be his UConn team to run, and how well he develops as a player will go a long way in determining the Huskie's success this season.

Joining Walker in the back court will be Jerome Dyson, another terrific athlete. Dyson is a bigger guard (6'4", 190 lb) that is the most dangerous in the open floor. A decent shooter when he has time, Dyson's strength is in his ability to get to the rim. He is explosive and a powerful finisher once he gets there. But like Walker, Dyson had a tendency to overpenetrate last season, resulting in a lot of tough shots. Defensively, Dyson is just as dangerous as Walker. He is a great athlete, and his length and anticipation make him a terror in the passing lanes. He and Walker will make life very tough on opposing back courts this season.

Beyond those two, UConn's back court will be very inexperienced. Two freshmen will be counted on heavily to provide back court depth - Darius Smith and Jamaal Trice. Smith and Trice are both exceptional athletes, and have been lauded by recruiting services for their defensive ability. Given the style that Calhoun will want to play this season, both Smith and Trice should be expected to be major contributors. At 6'5", Trice is a bit bigger than Smith, who is 6'1". Trice has big time athleticism, and has developed a knock-down jump shot. Smith is more of a combo-guard, and while his jump shot is not as developed as Calhoun would like, Smith has shown the ability to get into the paint at the high school level. Junior Donnell Beverly should also be expected to contribute some minutes.

But the back court isn't where the issues will be for the 2009-2010 Huskies. With Adrien graduating and Thabeet heading to the NBA Draft, a huge void is opened up in the middle. Senior Gavin Edwards will be back, but Edwards is not a guy that will be a star. An excellent role playing big man, Edwards is not a great offensive option in the post, but is a solid defender and rebounder. Freshman Alex Oriakhi will be counted on for major minutes, perhaps even stepping into a starting role off the bat. At 6'8", Oriakhi is closer to Jeff Adrien than a Josh Boone or Emeka Okafor. Strong in the paint, Oriakhi will provide the Huskies with some scoring, some defense, and a lot of rebounding and hustle inside.

Perhaps the biggest question mark for the Huskies will be 6'10" Sudanese refugee Ater Majok. Majok will become eligible after the first semester, but his impact on the court is still a question mark. Majok is long and athletic, and while his frame is a bit on the skinny side, Majok is still expected to be a big-time contributor for Calhoun. He is a defensive presence in the paint, but he also has enough skills on the perimeter that a defender is going to have to respect him. While Majok could end up being a star, UConn fans should be wary of the second coming of Ajou Ajou Deng.

The x-factors on this team are going to be Stanley Robinson and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel. Robinson might be the best athlete in the country. He is long (6'9") with crazy athleticism, and he plays with a ton of energy. It is widely known that he missed the beginning of last season while trying to prove to Calhoun he wanted to be a Husky, but when he returned, he was as good as he has been in his career. In fact, in postseason play, Robinson was absolutely dominant, averaging 17 ppg, 9.3 rpg, and over 2 bpg. Playing in the open court system that the Huskies will utilize this season, expect Robinson's athleticism and energy to take over at times.

Coombs-McDaniel is a bit different as a player. Another guy that's a tweener (at 6'7", he plays almost a point-forward kind of role), Coombs-McDaniel is knows for his versatility. He can penetrate, he is an excellent passer, and he is a smart, vocal leader, especially on the defensive end. He is not the overwhelming athlete that many Huskies are, but he is good enough defensively that there will be no drop off when he is in the game. Expect him to flourish as a Husky, and possibly slide into a starting spot by seasons end.

Two seven footers - Jonathon Mandeldove and Charles Okwandu - may also contribute some minutes up front.

Outlook: This is going to be an athletic team. The Huskies are going to have to press, to run the floor, and to crash the defensive glass. They don't have the shot-blockers that Husky fans have become accustomed too, but that shouldn't be a huge issue. Playing more of a full court style than they have the past two or three seasons, expect the Huskies to rely heavily on their athleticism to win games. If Kemba Walker and Stanley Robinson both develop into stars, UConn's fall should not be that tremendous and they could end up a top four team in the conference.
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