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TAG | Kansas

Nov/09

12

College Basketball: But football isn’t over yet!

Ok, so technically the season has started and games have been played.  For all intents and purposes though, football is still on TV so the season is still a couple of months away in many of our minds. However, many of these early season matchups will go a long way towards deciding who will be in or out come tourney time and who will get the champion from MEAC or a fourth place team from the ACC. So I’ll give you a few November clashes that should make you want to switch from the gridiron at least for a couple of hours.

November 17: Memphis vs Kansas

An early test for the favorites? Not likely considering everything the Tigers have been through in the past eight months, but it will give the Jayhawks top tier talent a chance to show how they will handle their rotation with a deep, talented bench against a solid opponent.  It will also show how KU will handle a team that will not be able to match them size wise inside and will likely try to spread them out and force the big guys to guard on the perimeter.  I’m sure new Memphis coach Josh Pastner would like to have a couple more pushovers before facing a team like this, but we’ll get to see what kind of attitude and heart this Memphis team has as they are likely being run out of the gym.  Don’t let the neutral site fool you.  Even though the two schools are the same distance away, the Scottrade Center will be echoing Rock Chalk the entire day.

November 19: North Carolina at Ohio State

The defending champs take their title defense on the road to face a top team from the best conference in CBB this year.  The Heels have questions about their backcourt, which is the biggest strength of this Buckeye team.  The Buckeyes have questions in the paint, which is UNC’s biggest strength.  OSU’s Evan Turner, fresh off a triple-double in the opener, will be matched up against Marcus Ginyard, which should be one of the best individual matchups of the year.  If the Buckeye’s want to take that next step this year (because with the recruiting class they have coming in they will in the next two) they have to show they can beat top teams in their non-conference schedule, especially at a neutral local.  The past three years the Buck’s are 2-6 against non-conference top 20 teams.

November 19: Syracuse at California

Cal is the enigma going into this season of the top 16 teams out there.  They are considered to be the class of the Pac 10 (which isn’t saying much this year) with the majority of their team coming back and it being year two of Mike Montgomery’s system. This will be a good litmus test to see if this team is for real or not, a neutral site game against a traditional Big East power on national television. Cal is known for their jump shooting ability and it will be interesting to see how that fairs against the famous Boeheim match-up zone the Orange thrive on.

November 26-29: 76 Classic in Anaheim, CA

Big time preseason tournament out west starting on Thanksgiving features four top 25 teams in action.  The first round is highlighted with Butler, the top Mid-Major team this year (sorry Gonzaga), against Minnesota, the deepest team in the Big Ten.  Second round matchups may include the winner of that game against a rebuilding UCLA and West Virginia vs the Texas A&M/Clemson winner and of course the final should be a clash of titans.  I love these tournaments, teams playing three times in four days will have their depth and conditioning on display.

Let the Smack begin

Ok, so I give Gusto some credit, he showed some balls in his predictions and being the first one to post, but I have some issues with those ten predictions.

40-0!? I don’t see that from KU this year.  First of all, there is the potential for chemistry issues on that team. They have enough talent to do anything, but will Bill Self be able to control all those egos and make them play team basketball?  They play in the second toughest conference in the NCAA which means road games to NCAA tourney teams (potentially this year) Iowa St., Missouri, Texas A&M, Oklahoma St., and Texas.  They also have a nonconference slate that includes a trip to Tennessee as well as home games vs Michigan and Cal.  Gusto, sorry to be a boner killer but there are at least two losses in there.

Kentucky will not be one and done.  Sure Coach Cal is about as credible and Kim Jong Il when it comes to recruiting, but the guy can coach.  His dribble drive offense is why point guards that can penetrate thrive under his tutelage, and John Wall is just the latest that will exemplify that.  Add that to the best big man he’s had since Marcus Camby in Patrick Patterson, and the Wildcats are set up for a deep run in the tourney.

Finally, Butler is not new to town.  If you paid more attention to what happens outside of Allen Fieldhouse Gusto you’d realize that they have been to 4 of the last 7 tournaments including two Sweet Sixteen appearances.  They may have their best squad in that time this year, but in no way are they a new darling on the block.

Posted by: Michael Dufresne

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For many of us the greatest part of the sporting season has just tipped off. Scores of us have been waiting for over seven long months since our beloved teams exited from the most thrilling post season event in all of sports that is the NCAA tournament. Last year you may have seen enough of your up and coming or rebuilt squad to garner aspirations of cutting down the net this April in Indy. Or maybe this class of incoming freshmen has created so much hype on campus surely this is the year your program makes the leap to the next level. Perhaps your school’s BCS and bowl hopes were squashed prematurely leading you to say “just wait ‘til hoops season.” It could be all of the above or you are just an All-American fan who enjoys following the thrills and pitfalls that is college basketball. Wherever your interest lies here are ten bold and not so predictions on what will surely be another fantastic season to add to the games mystic.

10: Coach of the Year: Bill Self. Duh, no peaking but see number one.

9: Player of the Year: Luke Harangody. It is this simple, he is and will be the most productive player in the country. He may be unorthodox and lacks tools NBA executives crave but no one can deny his hustle or heart. This short and stocky power forward for the Irish does it all. He is a scoring machine that hits the trinity with the best of them and is just a beast on the boards. Oh how refreshing it will be to see a POY not be an underclassmen. Bonus, he is from a school with higher admission standards than even a John Wall impersonator can get into.

8: Game of the Year: Circle 2/13/2010 on your calendar for what is sure to be a game for the ages. The two most talented teams square off in Austin which is the equalizer Texas needs if anyone hopes to stand in the way of KU and a perfect season. What isn’t to love? The top two teams from the Big XII the past decade square off. Barnes has recruited an unbelievably talented squad featuring number one recruit Avery Bradley. KU features its own super frosh in Xavier Henry. What an opportunity for Texas to show the nation it has more than football going for it, not to mention they are no longer just playing second fiddle to KU in the Big XII.

7: One and done no more. Headlined by a huge UK meltdown and an uprising in upper classmen, freshmen are suddenly wondering if leaving after their freshman year is in their best interest. Failure to make the second weekend of the NCAA tournament due to lack of experience and maturity the Wildcats show this isn’t the bellwether blueprint many believe it is and why for the most part teenagers simply aren’t ready to make the jump. All this happens while Cole Aldrich, Luke Harangody, Sherron Collins, Evan Turner, Kyle Singler, Craig Brackens, and Talor Battle show what time and good coaching can do for a player as they increase their draft stock.

6: ESPN discovers Universities exist that don’t border the Atlantic. It has been no secret that this elite sports network drools all over itself for schools that have Atlantic or East in their conference names. Much to their dismay these conferences leave too much to be desired while the two best conferences Big XII and Big 10 prove to be the class of the country and it simply can’t be blatantly ignored.

5: A new mid-major in town. Butler has established itself has a March staple in recent years and looks ready to institute itself as the premier team not in a power conference. Is there a coach that coaches a more fundamental and classic style than Brad Stevens? What a better year to make their footprint on the college landscape by making the Final Four in their own backyard this year? The Bulldogs are a team loaded with talent and returning their whole squad, what a feel good story this will make.

4: The Big 10 unseats the ACC. Eleventh time is a charm for a conference that has for the most part slumped since the new millennia, particularly in their annual challenge. That now changes with both MSU and Purdue being superior to both UNC and Duke this year. Michigan, OSU, Illinois, and Minnesota all have stronger teams than the only other competitive team Georgia Tech in what is down year for the ACC. Don’t mistake this for a hiccup, the Big 10 has done some serious upgrading in coaching and talent the past two years and look poised to return to relevance on the national scene for years to come.

3: More Blues in the Bluegrass state. In blinding pursuit to reach college basketball prominence UK hires two time cheat Calipari who brings with him more baggage than Dianna Ross. UK and the fans want a winner so bad they are willing to ignore and forgive him for the scandals he lead at employers past despite these schools being forced to vacate Final Four seasons as a result of his reprehensible actions. Calipari’s longtime friend “World Wide” Wes’ relationship is finally infiltrated by the NCAA for more violations than this site can hold. Unfortunately another black eye on perhaps the most storied program in the game.  Here goes the coaching carousel again.  Sorry Ashley Judd, I still love you!

2: Dukie V is busted. It turns out for the past 10+ years he has been doing more than drinking the ACC kool aid. He is in fact a paid lobbyist by the ACC to pimp up the conference above and beyond your usual ESPN and media east coast bias. This doesn’t matter to ESPN who despite the bad publicity it receives is too in love with their poster boy star broadcaster to get him to change his ways or financiers.

1: Lookout ‘76 Hoosiers. UNLV came close to running the table nearly two decades ago and experts say with the parity in the game today it can’t be done. Those that believe that need to look at this year’s Jayhawks. They return everyone who played from a team that was mugged out of the tournament last year to the eventual runner-up Spartans. Most notably are two future 1st team All-Americans Collins and Aldrich. To make a run through the tourney everyone knows you need an inside game and backcourt, having the best center and point guard in the country is a good start (sorry Wall but you haven’t proved a thing yet). These lads also bring a championship resume along with their coach. Bill Self has shown he is capable of out coaching the best in signature games over UNC’s Roy Williams and former Memphis’ John Calipari during their ‘08 title run. The toughest challenge will be against the next best team in the land, the Longhorns, who Self has owned and out coached in his KU tenure. If you aren’t in Indy April 5th, 2010 you won’t find a bigger party on the planet than Mass St. in Lawrence that night when the Rock Chalk Jayhawks dance their way to a second championship in three years and rewrite the record books going 40-0.

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