IU gets a pair, USA rolls on
So, Kelvin Sampson has grabbed his first couple of recruits for 2007 with power forward 6-7 Brandon McGee and 6-5 juco wing Jamarcus Ellis, both of whom are 3-star recruits. It's encouraging, but the needs for next year now are for a decent center and a true point guard. We won't see Sampson's real ability to recruit for a couple of years probably, but it wasn't the quality of talent that Mike Davis brought in that I had a problem with. It was the quality of the guys: they just weren't winners, and Davis was unable to make them winnners.
There is no better example than last year's squad, who had as much talent as anyone in the conference (yes, even without DJ White) as Marco, Marshall, and Rob Vaden were a well-balanced threesome, and Rod Wilmont, AJ Ratliff, and Earl Calloway gave you tons of game-changing athleticism, and then throw in the experience of former starters Sean Kline inside and Lewis Monroe outside, and then the spot duty of sweet-shooting Ben Allen & Erreck Suhr... Jeez, I get angry just typing up the roster. I wish Mike well in his new job, but with all that talent, to have to win at Michigan to get into the NCAA's in what turned out to be a relatively down year for the conference? Come on.
The point is, I'm looking forward to seeing the character of the teams that Sampson builds, which hopefully will approach the toughness of winners like Tom Coverdale, Alan Henderson, Steve Alford, Isiah Thomas, etc.
In other hoops news, ESPN ranks IU #28 in the preseason standings, just ahead of Louisville and Texas Tech, and just behind Kentucky. I think all of those are not too far off, maybe a little low, with the exception of Kentucky who should be projected for the NIT. ESPN's argument is "come on, they're Kentucky." but this is the same team that would've been in the NIT last year except for the heroics of Rajon Rondo, who's now gone. The Wildcats have a solid recruiting class, but I think they're going to have major problems in a very competitive SEC without an experienced point guard (assist-turnover ratio was already a concern before losing last season's starting backcourt which had 8.4 apg), and rebounding which was a concern even with the foul-prone Randolph Morris 6rpg (which was still less than Rondo's 6.1 rpg). I think Tubby Smith's boys are going to be eaten alive on the road, which is where you prove your worthiness to the NCAA selection committee.
As for the US team; this team looks more impressive and hungry than past teams. Also, the Refs don't seem to whistling the travel call as much on the fast-break dunks. Center is still a bit of a question, as Dwight Howard and Chris Bosh are impressive on the glass, and Brad Miller's shooting and passing are definitely valuable. But who starts? Who finishes? The bet here is Miller finishes quarters due to his ability to make the smart pass and hit free-throws. If Howard or Bosh get into foul trouble, Coach K can just plug in the other one for a while. And if all three are off, well there's always Elton Brand.
As for the final cut; I'm still betting its Bruce Bowen. I know Kirk Hinrich had a bad outing versus Korea, but he's the only true back-up point guard. And with Arenas gone, that means shifting either LeBron or D-Wade behind Chris Paul, and I think that's just a waste. Hinrich doesn't need to score, just to get the ball up the court and in the hands of the attackers. Shane Battier also might've taken himself off the team, but being Coach K's former national POY, I don't imagine he goes. Also, these are both defensive specialists, but Battier's got more offensive skills while at the same possessing more defensive versatility. Bowen just can't guard guys in the post.