Thursday, October 29, 2009

Changes, and Poll reax

The the ESPN/USA Today basketball poll is out. I am shocked, shocked! that I don't see the Hoosiers anywhere. I was actually surprised at how close I was some of the rankings- for example, I thought I would be the only one listing Butler as a top ten. Guess I'm not a unique snowflake after all. I am a little mystified at Texas & UNC as #3 and #4. Um, the Big Ten does pretty well-

#2 Michigan State
#7 Purdue
#15 Michigan
#17 Ohio State
#18 Minnesota
#27 Illinois

From here, I think Illinois and OSU are a bit over-rated, and Northwestern is a bit underrated.

I made some changes on the links section of the blog. It was getting kind of ridiculous for me to have to click through two sites to check out the latest from Crimson Quarry or The Only Colors. And some blogs had passed on, and needed to be replaced with more current commentary. Speaking of other bloggers, Inside the Hall is asking for some help. Even though they don't link to me (and I haven't asked), I suggest that if you like reading sportsblogs and have a couple of bucks to give back, they're a good venue as they pay for access to resources so they can share the knowledge and keep us fans up-to-date on the latest scuttlebutt. Also, they have a nice Q&A with the Godfather of tempo-free stats.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Basketball returns! ...kinda

The NBA kicked off last night, and I don't have a lot invested in the pros. I generally root for Chicago and Indiana, and root against the Lakers (well, more specifically, against Kobe), but I do like to see the highlights. Unless they interfere with college basketball highlights of course.

A friend of mine always puts together his predictions, and I try to counter them with my own much-less informed version. So, in the spirit of witless prognostication, here's my picks for the NBA 2009-2010 season:


1. Boston- Presuming a healthy KG. Good talent, Wallace was a nice pick-up, but KG is the real key.
2. Cleveland- I don't think Shaq will hurt them over the season. I just don't think he helps them get further in the playoffs.
3. Orlando- Good talent, but I'm thinking Vince Carter is on the downside of his career.
4. Atlanta- Lots of young talent remains, but have they reached their ceiling?
5. Washington- Have a good starting five, but pretty thin on depth.
6. Chicago- I like the Bulls' young talent. I worry about the interior offense, tho.
7. Miami- D-Wade is as good as they come, and JO & Beasley should help.
8. Philly- Lose Andre Miller but gain Elton Brand. Spinning their wheels.

Indiana- Improving with a lot of good young talent (Granger, Ford, Rush). Probably one good starter away from the playoffs.
Pistons- There's no respect for history in the NBA. Gordon's a weird pick-up when you already have Hamilton. And they were 39-43 last season.
Nets- Good backcourt, but that's it. Nothing else here is scary.
Knicks -Chris Duhon starting at point? Puh-lease. NY is mired in mediocrity.
Toronto- Bosh will probably be traded, and there's not a lot else to like.
Milwaukee- I don't think much of this team. Will probably hang around 30 wins
Charlotte- The young guys are going to get a lot of minutes. Losing Okafor hurts *a lot*


1. LA Lakers- You just can't pick anyone else.
2. New Orleans- Okafor a very nice pickup- adds offense that Chandler couldn't supply.
3. San Antonio- getting old. Duncan & Parker are still top-notch, tho. A healthy Ginobili is a must.
4. Portland- on the way up, and if Oden holds up and continues to improve, could be top-three.
5. Denver- very good with Carmelo at the top of his game. But I don't believe Billups, Martin will get better.
6. Utah- There's still good talent here, but have they topped out?
7. Dallas- also getting old, and not as good as Spurs
8. Phoenix- makes playoffs if Stoudemire, et al, stays healthy

LA Clippers- Blake Griffin is the real deal, especially with a Baron Davis-Eric Gordon backcourt
Memphis- They are rebuilding, and have hope for the future
Golden State- May get closer to playoffs if they can put the drama aisde, but
just not quite there.
Minnesota- Johnny Flynn helps. Still not enough power to make any
noise in the west tho.
Oklahoma City- not super-terrible.... just not anywhere near good.
Sacramento- not going anywhere good
Houston- injuries are devastating this squad

Just to be contrary, I'll pick Celtics over Lakers again for the championship. It didn't work out last season, but it did two seasons ago.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Other (Hoosier) Fall Sports

IU Football has had a couple of oh-so-close road wins. Not that I expected to the Hoosiers to win at Michigan and Northwestern, but what if they had? Instead of limping into a road match with #4 Iowa with a 4-4 record, they'd be 6-2 overall, 3-2 and tied for fourth place in the Big Ten, and looking for a bowl bid. Instead, with road games at Iowa and Penn State sandwiching a home game against Wisconsin, it seems like that Illinois win may well have been the high point of this season.

IU Men's Soccer has seemingly fallen apart, and is falling out of the rankings. Not that you can knock them for losing on the road against the #5 (Louisville) and #12 (Northwestern) teams in the country, but they got shut out 0-4 and 0-2. And that's after they dropped a game at home to Michigan State that they dominated but couldn't score in. To be fair, they've played a murderer's row of a schedule, at #1 Akron, hosting #2 Wake Forest, at #4 UCSB, at #5 Louisville, not to mention (#12) NU and #17 Butler. But the Hoosiers are now 7-7-1, which I believe is the worst record this late since 1993 and maybe even since 1985. And I honestly believed that coming off what was so close to being a Final Four season last year, the Hoosiers would be contending for a national championship. Coach Freitag's seat has got to be feeling hotter now, especially as one looks across the state border and sees Caleb Porter currently coaching the #1 team to a 15-0-0 record.

On the other hand, IU Women's soccer seems to be on the way up. These Hoosiers have a shiny new national ranking (#24) and 10-3-2 record, and is unbeaten at home. They are still only 7th in the Big Ten, tho. But still, go Hoosiers!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Full 20009-2010 Preseason Prognostication

So, once again I've listed my quick thoughts on teams 1-50, and slapped together a list of conference winners, a projected NIT field, and a list of sleepers that might attend the CBI or whatever other postseason tourneys there are. It's a grand total of 120 teams that I think will be better than the other 200, a little more in depth than last year, but not so much as I've done in the past. Astute readers will notice that my beloved Indiana Hoosiers are not among the illustrious 120. Consider them #121. I was pessimistic about the Hoosiers' chances last season, and was even moreso after seeing them in action. I'm probably a little pessimistic about the Hoosiers' chances this year too, but I think they'll look much better while again posting a losing overall record, with maybe an outside shot of getting to exactly .500. But enough about just one team- Here's to beginning of the College Basketball Season!

Teams 1-10
Teams 11-20
Teams 21-30
Teams 31-40
Teams 41-51
NCAA Automatic Bid Winners (teams 52-65)
NIT teams (66-97)
CBI & sleeper teams (98-120)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sleeper teams for 2009-2010

aka teams 98-120

Projected 2010 CBI field:

Cal State Northridge (Big West)
Citadel (Southern)
Gardner-Webb (Big South)
Georgia Tech (ACC)
IUPUI (Summitt)
Jacksonville (Altantic Sun)
Louisiana State (SEC)
Morehead State (OVC)
Navy (Patriot)
Northeastern (CAA)
Penn State (Big 10)
Robert Morris (NEC)
Saint John's (Big East)
Texas Christian (C-USA)
Virginia Commonwealth (CAA)
Wichita State (MVC)

Most likely to move up are Georgia Tech, The Citadel, and Penn State. Most likely from this group to drop out are IUPUI, Navy, and TCU. Any of these seven sleepers (or possible participants in CNET or whatever additional postseason tourneys, if any) listed below could move up if there are injuries, surprise ineligibilities, etc.

Arizona State (Pac-10),
Arkansas (SEC)
Manhattan (MAAC)
Nicholls State (Southland)
Rider (MAAC)
UALR (Sun Belt)

Projected 2010 NIT field

aka teams 66-97.

Arizona (Pac 10)
Boston College (ACC)
Buffalo (MAC)
Davidson (Southern)
Duquesne (Atl-10)
Eastern Kentucky (OVC)
Florida (SEC)
Georgetown (Big East)
Georgia State (CAA)
Hofstra (CAA)
Houston (C-USA)
Illinois State (MVC)
Iowa State (Big XII)
Miami (FL) (ACC)
Mississippi (SEC)
Missouri (Big XII)
New Mexico State (WAC)
North Texas (Sun Belt)
Notre Dame (Big East)
Oklahoma (Big XII)
Oral Roberts (Summit)
Oregon (Pac 10)
Pittsburgh (Big East)
Portland (WCC)
Princeton (Ivy)
Southern Illinois (MVC)
UC Irvine (Big West)
Vermont (AmEast)
Wisconsin (Big Ten)
Wright State (Hor)
Xavier (Atl-10)

Most likely to move up to the NCAA tournament from this group are Oklahoma, Mississippi, and Boston College. Most likely to drop down from this group are Southern Illinois, Vermont, and Georgia State.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Filling out the Field: The Automatic Bids

Here's the rest of my predicted 2010 NCAA tournament teams. There's the lucky 13 conference tourney winners, and of course the Ivy League conference standings winner as well.

America East: Boston University
Atlantic Sun: Lipscomb
Big Sky: Weber State
Big South: Radford
Big West: Long Beach State
Ivy: Cornell
Mid-Eastern: Hampton
Northeastern: Mount St. Mary's
Ohio Valley: Murray State
Patriot: Holy Cross
Southern: College of Charleston
Southland: Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Summitt: Oakland
Southwestern: Prairie View A&M

The most likely to pull a first-round surprise out of this group would be Boston. The team with the hardest task of holding off a challenger would be Murray State, who'll have capable rivals in the OVC tourney with Morehead State & Tennessee-Martin.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Quick notes 2009-2010 cbb teams 1-10

1. Kansas- I'm sorry, you expected someone else? Sherron Collins is the best point guard in the country and should get his second ring, barring a dose of extremely bad luck and timing. There's just way too much depth here overall, but I'll be watching frosh Xavier Henry's impact- he could well be a starter on day one. It'd be hard to foresee anyone getting the better of Cole Aldrich in the paint, and Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed, and Brady Morningstar are efficiency offensive forces at the wings. Marcus Morris starts at the power forward slot (and records a nice steal % there), but brother Markeiff is ready step in at any time too. Freshman 6-8 Thomas Robinson will probably only see spot minutes on this club, although point guard 6-2 Elijah Johnson may get significant minutes as Collins' back-up. Mario Little and Travis Releford both add depth to the wings, although neither looks particularly adept at distancing shooting (3 for 8 is good, but only 8 threes attempted apiece for the whole year? And 58% combined on free-throws?). However, the defense was fantastic again last year despite having tons of new players, and looks to be even better this year. It wasn't like Roy Williams was doing a bad job, but Bill Self has taken Kansas to a very elite level in a very short amount of time.

2. Villanova- The loss of Dante Cunningham will hurt, but there's enough talent here to do even better than last season. Instant impacts will be felt as freshmen 6-9 Mouphtaou Yarou and 6-6 Dominic Cheek step into the rotation. Frosh 6-0 Maalik Wayns should back up Corey Fisher, and 6-8 Isaiah Armwood should be able to supply some minutes up front. Getting the NBA-ready Scottie Reynolds back for this year was a coup, but Fisher, Corey Stokes, and Reggie Redding all saw starting minutes as well. Antonio Pena will also start, and should team with Yarou to provide the interior defense, but Duke transfer Taylor King is an option as well for one of the forward spots, and should provide a significant offensive boost. Jay Wright has proved himself to be one of the best in the coaching business regardless of personnel, and I think the Wildcats may be the nation's best bet to keep Kansas from yet another title. This club does give up free-throws, but overall there aren't many weaknesses here. Losing Cunningham, Dwayne Anderson, and Shane Clark from the frontcourt will cause some hitches, but Wright brought in the talent to shore it up, and it should be another happy March for 'Nova.

3. Tennessee- Bruce Pearl has assembled so much talent here. Even though last season could be seen as a bit of an underachievement, it could also be seen as a necessary period of adjustment to new talent and especially, a new point guard. Now five starters return and four of them are seniors. Tyler Smith and Wayne Chism aren't going to have to hold down the paint by themselves anymore, as 6-10 junior Brian Williams showed significant growth at the end of last season, and is joined by the powerful frosh 6-9 Kenny Hall, who should help immediately. 5-11 Juco point Melvin Goins also joins, which should help coach Pearl on nights when Bobby Maze is off. Michael Prince and Scotty Hopson provide multi-faceted games and long-armed agility to the Volunteer press. Some are expecting bigger things out of forward Renardo Woolridge, but his shooting really needs to improve. Josh Tabb and Cameron Tatum provide experienced depth from the wings, but Tabb was a pretty interesting shooter statistically last year as he went 13-28 on free throws (terrible!) and 14-33 on threes (great!). Previous years suggest that three-point shooting was a fluke, but Pearl could use a solid shooter off the bench. Outside of Hopson, the three-point shooting isn't great here, and also, once teams break the press, they tend to shoot well against Tennessee. Hall & an improved Williams might help, but I think Pearl's teams will always give up some twos in order to make foes play the game the way that Pearl wants to play it. If he doesn't get to the NCAA's final weekend with this squad, I don't know that he ever will.

4. Michigan State- Izzo could well start another Final Four streak, but I doubt he'll win the Big Ten regular season title with this team. Izzo teams tend to drop a few head-scratchers (Iowa '08, NU at home last season) before building steam in the final month, and I think Purdue's just going to be more consistent. But MSU has more talent and eventually in 2010 will have the better team. Let me start off with a couple of negatives before getting to the positives: 1) losing Goran Suton & Travis Walton is going to hurt. Essentially MSU is losing is best two defenders, as well as the most effective player in the conference (Suton). 2) I'm not as high on Kalin Lucas as most folks- sure, he got Big 10 POY last season and there was certainly a defensible logic behind that decision- he's an offensive threat and records an lot of assists with significantly less turnovers- but Lucas doesn't do much else and shoots really poorly on twos, and the killer is that he shoots them way too often. If Izzo can adjust Lucas' shot selection, I'll agree he's the best point guard in the conference. On to the positives! Raymar Morgan, when healthy, is a star performer and together with Delvon Roe should deliver a 1-2 punch in the frontcourt. Draymar Green is super-sub as well, and solid recruits 6-10 Garrick Sherman and 6-9 Derrick Nix should tag team with Tom Herzog to fill Suton's minutes. Korie Lucious backs up Lucas well, and Chris Allen and Durrell Summers look ready to start on the wing, particularly if Allen can find his 2008 3-point stroke.

5. Kentucky- This may be the second-most talented team in the nation, heck- maybe the most-talented, period. But the lack of reliable outside-shooting is going to haunt them. Patrick Patterson is a NBA-talent, as are freshmen 6-3 John Wall and 6-9 Demarcus Cousins. This trio will take the Wildcats far. The rest of '09 class are no slouches either with 6-10 Daniel Orton, 6-6 Jon Hood, 6-0 Eric Bledsoe, and Juco 6-7 Darnell Dodson also joining the fold. However, most of these guys will probably be getting back-up minutes unless Hood or Bledsoe can play the off-guard spot, as Darius Miller probably is set at the small forward. DeAndre Liggins and Perry Stevenson will also be fighting for starting spots, but they both will have to cut down on their turnovers, which was a pretty big problem last season. Although Kentucky to some extent was just unlucky not to make the NCAA tournament, new coach Jon Calipari will almost certainly make sure that the defense takes a notable step forward. Combined with his knack for snagging the very best talent, UK will almost certainly get back to the final four in the very near future, even if they have to vacate it soon thereafter. I just think that unless they find reliable outside shooters, they're going to have trouble putting teams away in the tourney, which could well cost this title-level-talent of a team.

6. Purdue- Probably the best team in the Big Ten, but come tourney time, I see the lack of experienced interior depth really hurting their chances at a Final Four. Of the freshmen class, only DJ Byrd seems like he has to the tools to step into a starting role, which may be needed if Keaton Grant can't shake himself out of last year's funk. The others 6-10 Sandi Marcius, 6-5 Kelsey Barlow, and 6-8 Patrick Bade will provide depth at least. The backcourt is solid with the trio of Chris Kramer, E'twuann Moore, and Lewis Jackson, and center Jajuan Johnson will probably be playing for pay next season. However, as everyone is saying, the key to this team is Robbie Hummel. With him, the Boilers are very good, but without him, there just isn't anyone on the roster who can hit the glass or is above average at three-point shooting. Matt Painter has a good shot a taking Purdue to its first final four in almost 30 years.

7. Washington- They'll have a slightly better season than last year, but I can't see them being a top title contender without the departed Jon Brockman. But stars 5-8 Isiah Thomas & 6-6 Quincy Pontdexter will give them a puncher's chance against anybody. Freshman 6-7 Clarence Trent will get plenty of chances to fill the gap left by Brockman, as well the redshirt freshman 6-7 Tyreese Breshers. But the real treasure in this class is 6-3 Abdul Gaddy. Gaddy will step right into the hole left by Justin Dentmon, who was an effective scorer but not really a true point. Venoy Overton & Elston Turner will provide perimeter depth. The center spot is a bit of a question as 7-0 Joe Wolfinger took a step back last season, 6-9 Matthew Bryan-Amaning hasn't shown anything special, and 6-8 Darnell Gant shot a horrid 36.6% from the field. Gant did shoot 70% on free-throws, and seems to be the likely fifth starter. Still, even with better overall talent, it's hard to see UW making the move to the final four without Brockman. His rebounding and interior toughness was so far off the chart that only his absence will reveal its true importance.

8. West Virginia- Huggins' recruits are starting to replace Beilien's roster. They'll be quite good thanks to Ebanks,et al, but I don't quite see a Final Four. The loss of Alex Ruoff is going to be hard to replace, and the offensive balance will suffer as a result of the lack of outside shooting (the Mountaineers already weren't great at three-point shooting even with him). But, Hugs did boost the interior depth finally with a very nice class that includes 6-9 Deniz Kilicli and 6-8 Dan Jennings, as well as wings 6-5 Dalton Pepper and Juco 6-4 Casey Mitchell. I don't know that Mitchell or Pepper or especially suited to the shooting guard, but one of them had better be, because otherwise WVU will have to have point guards Darryl Bryant and Joe Mazzulla logging heavy minutes side-by-side in the backcourt. This isn't a bad thing , necessarily, but chemistry may be an issue, and perimeter shooting & depth are definitely the weak links. The strength of this team is in starting forwards DaSean Butler and Devin Ebanks. These two stars will cause a lot of problems for opponents, and now that Kevin Jones and Wellington Smith don't have shoulder the sole burden of matching up against centers, they and the freshmen should be able to attack the glass with freer hands. Like his old Cincinnati teams, this club gives up a few too many free-throws. Still, having Mazzulla for a full season should allow WVU to take a significant step forward.

9. Wake Forest- Al-Farouq Aminu should lead the Deacons to the top of the ACC, which unfortunately is quite a bit less than the championship guarantee this year. Although the Demon Deacons beat both Duke & UNC, their best non-conference win was probably BYU, and they really fell flat in both the ACC & NCAA tourneys. Jeff Teague & James Johnson both jumped to the NBA, and Aminu will probably follow this year. But this year, he returns with a competent supporting cast that should allow him to star, and I expect Aminu to have a better year than Johnson did in 08-09. Freshman 6-7 Ari Stewart will probably start alongside him and capable senior Chas McFarland up front, and LD Williams and Israel Smith should hold down the backcourt unless frosh point 6-2 CJ Harris or 6-4 Juco Konner Tucker can crack the line-up. There's a ton of height to bring off the bench with 6-11 Tony Woods and 6-11 David Weaver, and 6-4 Gary Clark adds depth. There's a wicked defense and still a lot of firepower left here, but the lack of outside shooting will cripple the Deacs' chances at title contention, and might allow Duke to slip by them for the conference crown.

10. Butler- That's right. I think the Bulldogs will be back at a top-10 level again this year. Matt Howard's ability to anchor the paint is the key to hanging with the big boys, but this program will be fun to watch for years to come. Howard's great, but Gordon Hayward might be better. Hayward and Shelvin Mack were surprisingly good freshmen, and came in completely under the recruiting radar. This year, Hayward and Howard should get a little help inside from 6-10 freshmen Andrew Smith. Speaking of inside play, I don't understand why 6-8 Avery Jukes got such little playing time, and why 6-0 Ronald Nored got so much. Don't get me wrong, Butler won 26 games last season, but the numbers don't make sense: Jukes would provide a rebounding boost with effective scoring while not turning the ball over, and Nored coughs the ball up while shooting just terribly, even from the free-throw line (albeit providing assists). I understand needing perimeter depth, but it doesn't make sense to me that Nored gets starting minutes. Senior wing Willie Veasley turns the ball over a little, too, but also is a very effective scorer when not shooting threes. This is a solid Bulldog squad that loses no one and should be a terror all year.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Quick notes 2009-2010 cbb teams 11-20

11. Texas- The 'Horns continue to keep rolling with Rick Barnes. He brings in another amazing recruiting class, adds Florida transfer point guard Jai Lucas, and returns senior star Damion James. Justin Mason should steady the backcourt, while the progress of center Dexter Pittman should anchor the paint. Gary Johnson is perhaps a little underrated at the three-spot, and may even keep blue-chipper Jordan Hamilton on the bench. Conor Atchley's solid play & AJ Abrams' leadership will be missed, but frosh Avery Bradley is being talked about in one-and-done terms. The one weakness that I see that really keeps this squad out of the top ten is lack of interior depth. Alex Wangmene and Clint Chapman have never been able to do too much, and while Pittman has grown into a very nice player, he still can't seem to stay on the floor for starting minutes. It'll require the undersized James holding down the paint almost entirely on his own for Texas to challenge for a Final Four berth.

12. California- The Golden Bears just have a ton of talent returning, and swept Washington last season. With five returning starters, I really would have felt comfortable picking them for Pac-10 champs had they not sputtered down the stretch so badly, losing five of their seven, and all of their last three including a NCAA first-round blowout at the hands of Maryland. Jerome Randle & Patrick Christopher make one of the nation's very best backcourts, and Jamal Boykin does a nice job hitting the glass. Watch seven-footer Jordan Wilkes, the more time he's able to take away from Harper Kamp at center, the better this team is going to be. Special mention here for 6-10 recruit Bak Bak, who'll be instantly making the all-name teams.

13. Duke- The Blue Devils finally have gotten some quality height with this year's recruiting class (6-11 Mason Plumlee & 6-10 Ryan Kelly), and combined with Brian Zoubek, Lance Thomas, and Kyle Singler, Coach Kryszewski has a bit a glut up front. The problem is, with the graduation of Greg Paulus and the early losses of Gerald Henderson & Elliott Williams, the perimeter is paper-thin. Jon Scheyer and Nolan Smith will have to carry a significantly heavier load this season, which is rough. Also, even with the discussions of shifting Singler and/or others to the three spot, and the coup of grabbing 6-3 Andre Dawkins a year early, I still don't see a real point guard on this roster. They'll be good, but just not at their usual Final Four level.

14. Minnesota- The Golden Gophers return all of their top players, and add a solid recruiting class that features a couple of athletic forwards. Royce White could start from day one, and Rodney Williams will provide some Corey Maggette-like depth off the bench. And Ralph Sampson and Colton Iverson were two of the better freshman bigs last season, with Al Nolen & Damian Johnson bring defensive terrors as well. The one thing I'm not sold on here is their half-court offense. Outside of Sampson, no one looked particularly effective as a scorer, and even go-to guy Lawrence Westbrook was pretty average. Also, there are some problems with turnovers, and their defensive rebounding isn't great. But, there's so much talent here that Tubby will maximize having a second five of Iverson, Williams, Paul Carter, Devron Bostick, and Devoe Joseph (not to mention Blake Hoffarber & Juco Trevor Mbakwe as his #11 & #12 guys) to the maximum effect. The Gophers are rising.

15. Brigham Young- The Cougars are looking to become the new Butler/Gonzaga, a midmajor mainstay in the minds of the ESPMSM. Losing Lee Cummard will hurt, but having Jonathan Tavenari, Jimmer Fredette, and Emery Jackson pick up the slack should work. Chris Miles fills the center spot ably, and a solid recruiting class should help boost a bench that, honestly, wasn't very good last season. If 6-8 sophomore Noah Hartsock can make the jump to starter at the four-spot, and it seems he has the rebounding, block, and FG% to do so, then frosh 6-9 Brandon Davies can come off the bench. My biggest concern is free-throw shooting, as Cummard was an excellent free-throw shooter, and with the exceptions of Fredette, Jackson, and Tavernari, this team was pretty awful. Otherwise, I think this club makes a big leap forward.

16. Dayton-
The Flyers are the A-10 team to watch. Ryan Wright and Chris Lowery are a powerful inside-outside combo, and sophomore forward Chris Johnson should step right into the starting spot vacated by the graduated Charles Little. The sole freshman, 6-9 Matt Kavanaugh, will see some minutes at center, but overall, the returning depth and experience of a team that beat West Virginia in the first round of the NCAA tourney last season is the story. Notably, this team isn't great at shooting the ball, ranking below average at the line as well as inside and outside of the arc. But consistently winning the turnover battle and hitting the offensive glass makes up the difference. Swingman Marcus Johnson should get more shots, as he doesn't turn it over and shoots well from the field.

17. Siena- Losing Kenny Hasbrouck will hurt, no doubt, but the Saints have a great shot at the Sweet Sixteen, I think. Clarence Jackson should step right into Hasbrouck's shoes and should be able to pick up a lot of the slack. Jackson doesn't pass as well as Hasbrouck or notch as nice of a steal rate, but he would appear to be a slightly more effective scorer. Ron Moore is solid at point as Ryan Rossiter is in the paint, and forwards Alex Franklin and Edwin Ublies likely should and will be featured in the offense a little more. Freshman 6-8 Oderah Anosike & 6-0 Jonathan Breeden will help off the bench. Otherwise, there's not a lot of depth, but coach Fran McCaffrey tends to ride his starters hard anyway. However, benchrider 6-5 sophomore Owen Wignot did hit 40% of his threes last year, and might see some more minutes as a result.

18. Tulsa- Finally, a team other than Memphis should walk away with the Conference-USA crown. 7-0 Jerome Jordan will be the focus of most of the media attention, as well NBA scouts, and rightfully so. Ben Uzoh (assists & steals) and Justin Hurtt (shooting) do some good things from the backcourt, but overall, the returnees not-named-Jordan aren't very impressive. Glenn Andrews should probably not shoot as much as he does, and forward Bishop Wheatley shoots just fine, but doesn't contribute a lot else. 6-1 recruit Donte Medder is probably Tulsa's point guard of the future, and 6-6 Bryson Pope could contribute this season, too. And who knows? To my eyes they both will have considerable opportunities to earn starting spots by the end of season.

19. Michigan- John Beilein, in just his third year, is challenging Bo Ryan and Tom Izzo for the best Big Ten coach. His work at WVU suggests a marked improvement is to be expected, and that's coming on the heels on a very surprising NCAA berth. Four starters return, including standouts Manny Harris & DeShawn Sims. Harris gets the ink, but Sims is the real key to this team. He plays center (probably too much) and his outside shooting and passing make this offense run. A solid recruiting class led by guards Darius Morris and Matt Vogrich shores up the bench, and it's not unreasonable to expect sophomores Stu Douglass and Zack Novak's games to mature. My numbers have long said the Zack Gibson should get more minutes, but both his free-throw and three-point percentages took a dive last season. We'll see what happens his senior year, but either way, the Wolverines won't be sweating Selection Sunday.

20. South Carolina-
This team is not highly rated by most pundits, and it's easy to see why as they lost in the first round of the NIT last year. But they lost to Davidson, who frankly should've been in the NCAA's, and I thought the Gamecocks had an argument for the Big Dance too. They won at Baylor, and tied for second in the SEC standings, and did better in per-possession terms than much-bally-hooed-for-this-season Mississippi State. I think the Gamecocks'll be considerably better this year as they return almost everyone, excepting guards Zam Frederick and former walk-on Branden Conrad, who were by far the team's worst shooters inside the arc. Top 100 recruit 6-4 Lakeem Jackson should help recover some of the Frederick's production on the wing, but Devan Downey and Dominique Archie will produce more, too. Downey in particular has been an underrated star performer. Mike Holmes is very capable in the post, but he really needs some help. I think Sam Muldrow should be able to provide much more of that than he has so far, but 6-9 Juco Jhondre Jefferson and 6-8 junior Austin Steed should to provide more depth. 6-7 swingman Evan Baniulis might be pressed into the starting line-up as a combo-forward starter with Archie, which may be the most likely scenario.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Quick notes on 2009-2010 cbb teams 21-30

21. Connecticut- There's no doubt about the fact that UConn's going to be bit thin on depth this season. But they've got enough talent, Kemba Walker & Stanley Robinson come to mind, plus experienced vets Jerome Dyson & Gavin Edwards, and a top-notch recruiting class, to remain competitive. I doubt they get a whiff of the Final Four this season, as they desperately need frosh center Alex Oriakhi to be battle-ready, and their perimeter shooting looks to be a little uneven. However, I wouldn't be surprised to see new 6-6 wing Jamal Coombs-McDaniel & 6-2 Darius Smith making immediate impacts either. The real question here is whether center Ater Majok will be eligible in December, or whether he'll continue to be a distracting sideshow.

22. North Carolina- The Tarheels are defending the national championship, but not with the same team they left the floor with in April. I actually wouldn't expect their offense to suffer terribly, but I do think that their defense, which was merely decent in conference play, is going to take a significant step back. The freshmen Roy Williams has brought to Chapel Hill
are tremendous, and having returnees like Marcus Ginyard, Ed Davis, and Deon Thompson is a luxury anyone would like to have, but he's still going to have to rely on relatively inexperienced guards to run the offense. Of more concern is the fact that UNC without Ty Lawson was a much worse defensive team over the last few years, and being without him altogether is going to hurt. And there was this other guy, one who *hit* 249 free-throws last season, who might be missed too. Tyler something. Although I'm sure the freshmen will do well by Heels fans, someday.

23. Northern Iowa-The Panthers tied for first last season in the MVC, won 23 games, return all five starters and eight of their top nine overall. They add three solid recruits, of whom 6-3 Marc Sonnen may end up being their point guard of the future, but for this season 6-4 Juco Antonio Jones might end up starting. While I think UNI has a nice 1-2 combo of Jordan Egsleder and Adam Koch inside, and Kwadzo Ahelegbe and Ali Farokhmanesh are a solid backcourt, there really is room for 6-6 junior Kerwin Dunham to join the starters and explode if given the minutes. If only he could demonstrate a little defense, I bet these Panthers could make the Sweet Sixteen.

24. UCLA- Losing four starters would be a set-back to any team, but for a Bruins' team that was already starting to slip, it really does bring up a lot of questions. Once again, UCLA had one of the most effective offenses in the country last year, even if the pace was fairly slow. Freshmen Tyler Honeycutt and Brendan Lane should step into starting roles alongside Nikola Dragovic, and backcourt duties will likely fall to shooter Michael Roll and
6-1 sophomore point Jerime Anderson. Vets Drew Gordon and James Keefe could step up inside, but if they don't, there's plenty of freshmen to plug in up front. Turnovers are a concern, and actually the defense will probably cause some ugly losses, but I believe in UCLA coach Ben Howland's ability to keep these guys in the national spotlight (for good reasons).

25. Nevada- The Wolfpack looks primed to jump forward, led by Luke Babbitt and Armon Johnson. Along with Joey Shaw, Mailk Cooke, and Brandon Fields, this team looks sharp, if a little short. 6-8 Freshman Devonte Elliott or 6-8 Sophomore Dario Hunt might be able to help with that, tho. The real
question is whether the WAC can get enough respect, coming off of a terrible
year, to get multiple bids so Nevada doesn't feel the extra pressure of *having* to win the conference tourney. This club is not that great at shooting threes, except for Cooke and Babbitt. Actually, there's little that Babbitt doesn't do well, although his 2pt FG% could use an uptick before he thinks about jumping to the pros or anything.

26. Mississippi State- Barry Stewart, Dee Bost, and Jarvis Varnando are a good 1-2-3 combo, and they've got good support as nearly everyone returns and a few solid recruits are added. However, this would be a sweet sixteen team if blue-chip recruit power forward Renardo Sidney wasn't embroiled in a mess of a lawsuit with the NCAA over his eligibility. If this gets solved soon, bump MSU up a few notches. It seems unlikely, tho. This club is a
little vulnerable to second-chance points (which is what happens when you have a top-flight shot-blocker like Varnando), and there's still some turnover problems. This is a solid team, but I still don't know what the ceiling is without Sidney.

27. Clemson- The Tigers knew they were losing Raymond Sykes and KC Rivers after last season, but the surprise loss of Terrence Oglesby really drops this club sweet 16 contention. While 6-9 Milton Jennings could step into the center spot, he's pretty light for the ACC rebounding wars at 210. Fellow frosh 6-6 Noel Johnson should also start, with Trevor Booker and Demontez
Stitt holding down the paint and the point, respectively. Having Oglesby hold down that off-guard slot would've helped, tho, and there's not a lot of depth inside except for 6-8 role player Jerai Grant. They'll be decent, but this is still probably a step back for Clemson this season.

28. Memphis-There was some questioning this offseason as to whether the Tigers will even get to the postseason after coach Calipari bailed (leaving behind yet another vacated Final Four). I think they'll be just fine. Tulsa might be better in the conference, but Memphis won't fall so far. Josh Pastner has done a good job of lining up a fantastic recruiting class for next season, and picked up Duke's Elliott Williams to shore up the backcourt, and he's eligible immediately. He really needs 6-9 Juco Will Coleman to hold down the center spot, because the only other option is benchrider 6-7 Pierre Niles. Doneal Mack is the only returning statrter, and should be joined by Roburt Sallie and Wesley Witherspoon. The Tigers will be fine, just not fantastic for a year or two.

29. Louisville- Freshman point guard Peyton Siva should be the buzz of the Big East by the year's end, but burgeoning star Samardo Samuels and a seemingly endless collection of guards should keep Louisville in the upper half of the conference. Jerry Smith might be this year's Jodie Meeks, and frosh Rakeem Buckles and Stephen Van Treese should shore up the four-spot
for Pitino. I expect the usual Louisville formula of a number of head-scratching losses early and then a late run to secure a NCAA spot, and lots of chatter generated for the next season's squad.

30. Gonzaga- The Zags lose a ton of good players, but Mark Fox has a mid-major giant of a program that just keeps rollin' on. Freshmen Kelly Olynyk won't be able to replace Austin Daye, and Samuel Dower can't do what Josh Heytvelt did, but Matt Bouldin should be this year's star and with
Stephen Gray and Demetri Goodson should ensure that that Bulldogs continue to rule the WCC. GJ Vilarino or Mangisto Arop could be the sleepers that Fox is so good at finding, but a more likely scenario is that Gonzaga just isn't that good this year. This is a bit of a brand-name pick, I have to admit, but don't bet against Fox.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Quick notes on 2009-2010 cbb teams 31-40

31. Maryland- Maryland had a nice run in the tourneys last March, but their numbers suggest that this performance was an outlier rather than indicative of what how much we should be "fearing the turtle" for the coming year. The home loss to Morgan State was pretty bad, but it was just one of 14 losses they suffered for the year. Furthermore, their in-conference efficiency margin ranked 10th in the ACC, with a relatively poor offense not compensating for a mediocre defense. Maryland returns everyone but Dave Neal, so they should be better than last season, but I wouldn't expect a huge improvement. Freshmen bigs Jordan Williams and James Padgett look to have some adjusting to do, and otherwise this club is still going to pretty small. Sure, Greivis Vasquez should have a good year, but just expect these Terrapins to actually earn last year's successes.

32. Texas A&M-The Aggies look to replace the scoring touch of Josh Carter with talented freshmen wings Naji Hibbert and Khris Middleton. They also bring in 6-8 Kourtney Roberson to help out up front, which should alleviate the early loss of 6-11 Chinemelu Elonu. Donald Sloan and Bryan Davis return to captain this team to greater heights. Although Texas A&M beat BYU to get the second round of the NCAA tournament, I thought that was really the best the Aggies could possibly do last season. I don't think they'll be a radically better team this year, but they'll show more signs of a program on the rise this time around.

33. Creighton- Graduated guards Josh Dotzler & Booker Woodfox will be missed by the Bluejays , but luckily there is a lot of talent left in the backcourt. P'Allen Stinnett is a fine scorer, albeit better from inside the arc than without, and Cavel Witter can run the point just fine, although it'd be nice if he cut down on the turnovers a tad. 6-4 Justin Carter also hits the glass quite well for a 200-pound wing, and 6-9 Kenny Lawson will continue to anchor the paint on both ends of the floor. The only major concern for this year would seem to be outside shooting, but Creighton brought in a bunch of talented frosh and Juco guards, so not only is there depth, but someone should be able to start hitting threes.

34. Akron- The Zips lose a couple of role players, but otherwise have everyone back from last year's 23-win, MAC-championship season. They should be good enough this year to get in without the conference tourney championship. This squad is fairly short overall, with their top players measuring 5-9 (Anthony Hitchens) and 6-6 (Brett McKnight), and the rest of the starters standing at 6-7 (Chris McKnight), 6-2 (Steve McNees), and 5-11 (Daryl Roberts). But they are bringing a highly touted 6-11 freshman Zeke Marshall, who might be able to play the role BJ Mullens did for Ohio State last year.

35. Vanderbilt- John Jenkins is one of the top wing prospects in the country, and should give the Commodores a nice boost off of the bench with his outside shooting. Andrew Ogilivy's continued domination under the basket, along with the return of literally *everyone* would normally mean a natural progression from a weak bubble team to a solid competitive squad contending for a top 25 ranking. I don't think they'll move up too much, because their per-possession defense was pretty mediocre for the SEC (1.04), and I don't see that getting a big improvement. But a year of experience for Brad Tinsley, et al, should mean less turnovers, which should help boost their offense enough to move forward.

36. Northwestern- If Carmody doesn't take NU to its first NCAA tournament berth this year, I don't think he ever will. This club has a great scorer in Kevin Coble, a solid point in Michael Thompson, a defensive wrecker in Jeremy Nash, and a host of sophomore bigs led by John Shurna. Kyle Rowley has the eye-catching size, but don't sleep on the 6-11 Luka Mirkovic either. Craig Moore's effective scoring will be missed, but if either of the incoming freshmen (Drew Crawford & Alex Marcotullio) can provide a little shooting off the bench, the Wildcats should prove worthy of a bid without having to sweat Selection Sunday.

37. Syracuse- Boeheim looks to have great rebounding with Wesley Johnson & Arinze Onuaku, but guard play/turnovers will give the Orange fits. Freshman Brandon Triche and returning vet Scoop Jardine are pretty much all Boeheim has in the backcourt, unless he moves 6-5 Andy Rautins back from the three-spot, and he may have to. Losing Johnny Flynn, Eric Devendorf, and Paul Harris early is going to have a measurable negative impact this year. Luckily, the Big East won't be quite as tough as last season, so the Orange won't get unfairly squeezed out of a shot at a tourney berth.

38. Oklahoma State- A top 10 recruiting class should give a nice boost to the Cowboys. Losing Byron Eaton and Terel Harris won't cause too much grief in Stillwater, but it may seem like OSU is treading water at times this year. I think this season is about building momentum for the future, unless the recruits are even better than advertised. Although wing Roger Franklin may land starting minutes, 5-9 Raymond Penn, 6-9 Torin Walker, and 6-10 Jarred Shaw all may need a year of seasoning before this club starts climbing back up the rankings.

39. Utah State- Don't get me wrong, I don't think that Juco Nate Bendall is going to replace do-everything Gary Wilkinson, and I don't think that USU is going to win the WAC in a walk again. But I think the WAC is going to be a much better conference than last year, and I think the Aggies bring back enough to return to the NCAA's again. Good shooters abound here, and Taj Wesley and Brady Jardine should pick up the slack inside. Jared Quayle is a standout guard who should captain this team to success, and freshmen wings Preston Medlin & Tyrone White should be able to provide some competent depth, at least.

40. Florida State- While I'm not terribly sold on this squad that has graduated its leading scorer as well as its leading rebounder, I think Chris Singleton and Solomon Alabi can pick up the slack so FSU doesn't drop too far. And 6-5 freshman Michael Snaer could be starting from day one. However, what the 'Noles probably need the most is for guards Derwin Kitchen & Luke Loucks to cut way down on the turnovers. That's the one thing that I think could keep FSU out of the tourney, 'cause their defense will probably be quite good again.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Quick notes on 2009-2010 cbb teams 41-50

Starting off my preview of the 2009-2010 year with the last at-large teams to make into the NCAA tourney. Here's some quick thoughts on each team.

41. Ohio State- A lot of pundits have the Buckeyes in the top 25 due to Matta's brilliance and the return of David Lighty, but I really think everyone's underestimating the loss of Mullens as a cudgel off the bench, and over-rating Lighty's impact a bit as well. Lighty should help the perimeter defense, but the interior game is taking a big hit without Mullens.

42. Old Dominion-
If ODU can fend off Hofstra, I think they'll show they belong in the NCAA tourney. Noone should risk losing the auto-bid, but maybe, just maybe, they could get in without it. ODU's no slouch in coming off a 25-win season, and returning eight of their top nine players, but they do have mid-major height, and this will probably keep them from getting too far in the NCAA tourney.

43. Oregon State- The turnaround continues. They get nearly everyone back, and add a great recruiting class. The new depth should wear down the opposition, and hopefully improve the not-so-great defense a few notches. Calvin Haynes is pretty decent, but is Roland Schaftenaar the new Pittsnogle?

44. Seton Hall- High-visibility transfers+ returning scorers=??? Chemistry is the big question, although how good the Hall is at getting defensive stops is another key to watch early. If new arrivals Herb Pope and Keon Lawrence can provide a little defense and be happy with somewhat-limited roles in the offense (alongside Jeremy Hazell, Eugene Harvey, and Robert Mitchell), it'll be dancin' time again for the Pirates.

45. Richmond- If health holds, they've got enough talent to shoot way up this list. I'm suspecting Dan Geriot's knee recovery is slow enough to keep them from getting further than the NCAA's, tho. A fantastic backcourt is keyed by Kevin Anderson.

46. Illlinois- I'm not very high on the Illini (even now that I'm enrolled there), but I think they'll have enough to squeak into the Big Dance. Honestly, if they can lure former walk-on Jeff Jordan back on the team, it would significantly help their guard play. Right now, it's McCamey outside and Mike Davis inside and not a lot else. The frosh wings make or break this team.

47. Kansas State-Don't look now, but another program is starting to gain momentum in "bloody Kansas." Clemente may have hit the now-viral shot, but backcourt mate Jacob Pullen is pretty important, too. Wing Dominique Sutton may have a really big year, but center Luis Colon needs to continue his improvement.

48. Cincinnati- Deonta Vaughn is getting some help this season from slasher Lance Stepheson and new point Cashmere Wright, and with the maturation of Yancy Gates, this should result in a tourney bid. Big caveat here, tho- if the Bearcats aren't able to shore up their in-conference defense (1.10 points given up per possession last season), they won't even be on the bubble.

49. LaSalle- This is one I may rue, but I think they may just be due. If Vernon Goodridge had gotten another year, it would've helped shore up the interior defense, but the Explorers have a lot of firepower returning. If you get a chance, catch future pro Rodney Green with the ball.

t-50. San Diego State- Transfers should give this mediocre club a boost onto the bubble. Watch the new blood from Pepperdine (Thomas & Shelley) in particular. Illinois transfer Brian Carlwell could have a good impact as well. They'll have their troubles early, as they do lose 4 senior starters. But I think there's enough new blood to get in the NCAA's.

t-50. Western Kentucky- I boldly predict they'll have no big upsets this year, but should continue their conference dominance. With four returning starters and a balanced recruiting class, they'll be set to keep the Sun Belt under their heel. Sergio Kusch is a near-perfect combo forward, and Jeremy Evans will be an elite shot-blocker this season.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The turning of the leaves

means my thoughts are slowly turning to basketball. Other Hoosier sporting-clubs appear to struggling somewhat. I watched a little of the OSU beatdown, enough to be impressed with Doss, but also to confirm that IU still is a gutsy football team that doesn't have enough horses to make a run for the top of the Big Ten. Also, the Hoosier soccer team, after appearing to finally get it together, gets shut out in two consecutive losses. I'll still be rooting for both teams, tho.

I'm working on a reworked top 50 preview of the college basketball season, but it's going a bit slow, understandably. I'll have teams 41-50 out soon.