Friday, November 19, 2010

College Basketball general thoughts

1) Indiana- I had forecast IU as a NIT team, primarily on the strength of their easy non-conference schedule. However, after the first few games (which were against mediocre-at-best clubs, to be fair) and the exhibition games I think the Hoosiers could actually hang in the Big Ten as well. I really doubt that this at a point where Illinois, Minnesota, and Northwestern should be scared of getting swept by IU, but this team really should be the "best of rest" in the Big 10 and I could see them drumming up 8 wins pretty easily. What's the difference? A) Christian Watford- the guy has put in some time this summer, and looks much more confident finishing at the rim or on the wing. I don't think he'll ever be a totally dominant player, but the Big Ten Geeks are starting to look pretty smart for picking him as the conference's most-improved player. B) The freshmen- Frankly, the Hoosiers haven't had any lengthy perimeter athletes since Crean came on, and both Oladipo and Sheehey have shown some real athleticism as well as a desire to play defense. Oladipo in particular has shown the ability to penetrate, pass, rebound, block, steal, and hit big shots. He has to put it all together, but he & Sheehey give the Hoosiers a dimension they just did not have last season. C) Shooting- Creek & Roth (hopefully) return, giving the Hoosier offense some bite from outside. If you combine this with Watford's ability to score inside and the frosh wings' ability to slash to the basket, suddenly the Hoosier offense has options. We really could see a fundamental leap forward in per-possession terms from the Hoosiers on offense, and we should see a significant (if smaller) improvement on defense as well.

2) Over-rated! I do not understand this lovefest for North Carolina, and to a lesser extent Syracuse, Ohio State, and Villanova. Ohio State should be pretty good, but I just don't see how losing Evan Turner means OSU goes from a top-16 team to a top-5 team, even with JJ Sullinger. Granted, OSU did a pretty good job on Florida, but still. Syracuse also loses their best player, along with their center and best perimeter player. I just see the 'Cuse losing too much rebounding for their defense to stay top-notch. The most egregious case of over-rating is UNC, tho. Look at it this way: A last-place ACC team loses a couple of starters, welcomes a few highly talented freshmen, and is not considered a conference front-runner, but a marginal bubble team. I'm actually talking about North Carolina State here, as North Carolina fits that exact description except for the fact that they lost four starters, as well as two rotation players off the bench. That's a lot of new faces. Yes, Harrison Barnes will be very good, and having frosh point Kendahl Marshall around should charge up the point guard spot. But John Henson will have to improve a lot and Tyler Zeller will have to stay healthy in order to replace both Deon Thompson and Ed Davis, and transfer Justin Knox is going to have to replace the minutes of both Wear twins. I won't say that UNC won't be better, I just have a hard time seeing how, essentially, Harrison Barnes turns this club into a title contender all by himself.

3) I gotta take Gasaway, et al's side on the Purdue-as-not-a-top-ten-team-without-Hummel. Boiled Sports is pretty mad about it, but I think their argument is that without Hummel, the Boilers were a sweet 16 team, so with some new faces and a couple of possible All-Americans they should be considered a Final Four threat. This doesn't really take into consideration that last year's Boiler team lost Chris Kramer (who was probably the biggest reason PU got past Texas A&M) and Keaton Grant - the two best perimeter defenders the Boilers have had for the last couple of years. Sure, the loss of those guys could be overcome with some newbies and the return of the big three. But with Hummel out... long story short, yes- one guy can make that much of a difference. This isn't quite the old LSU teams without Shaq or the old Memphis teams without Penny Hardaway, 'cause there weren't a lot of other good players on those teams. However, Purdue's looking at holding steady as a best-case scenario without Hummel, and I think the Final Four -barring a series of miracles- is probably out of reach again for PU.

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