Friday, October 26, 2007

First Coaches Poll Out

In case you haven't seen it, here it is. I'm sure you're wondering what I think of it, so a few random observations:

Pac 10 loving: The Pac 10 is going to be a great conference this year, but... man. Six of the top 21 teams? If this happened the Big East, everyone would be screaming East Coast Bias. Is this West Coast Bias now? It's very possible that the Pac 10 will end up with the most Top 25 teams, but maybe we should let some games happen before we throw teams like Stanford in the Top 25.

Big Ten hating: Two teams in the Top 25? Hard to imagine that holding up. Last year the Big Ten ended up with only two teams in the Top 25, but there are a few reasons that shouldn't happen again. First of all, Ohio State and Wisconsin rocked the rest of the conference last year, driving down everyone else's records and rankings. With more parity this year there should be more wins to go around. Second of all, I just think the conference will be a little bit better. New head coaches in Michigan and Minnesota should really help things.

How quickly people forget: Too many of the voters are affected by last year's media bias, where certain players were given too much/little credit for the success of their teams. Exhibit A is an Ohio State which was marketed as Greg Oden And The Others, when in fact it had a bunch of other talented players. Oden missed plenty of time with injuries and fouls, and the team didn't miss a beat. Throw in another Top Ten recruiting class and they will have a ton of talent to throw around. Exhibit B is Texas A&M, where people forget how essential Acie Law was. Every big win they had involved the Acie Law Show. I think people also forget where that university was before Billy Gillispie showed up. Like Stanford, I'd like to see the Aggies win a few games before I give them some Top 25 love.

Quick Hits, a few more underrated teams: Alabama, Wisconsin, Missouri

Quick Hits II, a few more overrated teams: Villanova, Kansas State, Indiana

Friday, October 19, 2007

More Missing Players

A couple more news updates on missing players:

Brook Lopez Part Deux
Maybe there is someone reading this blog who has inside information on Stanford's program, but I can't figure out what is going on with Brook Lopez lately. First his grades cause him to be ineligible for the semester. Then, he misses more classes and a practice and is now kicked out of practice for an indefinite amount of time. I'm not going to speculate on what is going on with this kid, and hopefully for Stanford this is just a case of the coach wanting to send a message to a student about taking college seriously (like Bobby Knight did with Jarrius Jackson last year). And hopefully this malaise is just affecting Brook, and not the rest of the team.

Stanford is a team that overachieved last year, getting a trip to the Tournament that they probably didn't deserve. I would have given it to Syracuse, or even Drexel before giving it to Stanford. This kind of past can cause a team to rest on their laurels a little bit. Teams that overachieve one year can believe the hype too much and struggle the next year. Meanwhile, a team like Syracuse is more likely to overachieve this year, as they will be motivated by the Selection Committee's slight back in March. Stanford has a lot of talent this year, and I'd say their ceiling is something like a 4 or 5 seed. But if this behavior from Brook is a symptom of a general team malaise, this team could miss out on the Tournament altogether. We'll know soon enough what the Cardinal will be like this year. They have an incredibly soft out-of-conference schedule, but start the Pac-10 season with a bang. UCLA and USC show up at Maples Pavilion within the first week of 2008.

Michael Flowers Out "Temporarily" For Wisconsin
The impact of this news will depend on the definition of "temporarily". The cause of the absence could leak in the next few days, and Badgers fans will have to pray that this is a short-term absence from the team. Flowers is an absolutely essential part of a Wisconsin team that has the ability to be a Top 25 team and Tournament threat with him, but is a bubble team at best without him. His experience on the perimeter will be invaluable for a team that lost two heavyweight players to graduation (Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor). In addition, Flowers is a premier perimeter defender, and will be necessary to stop teams with elite offensive guards like Indiana and Michigan State. Wisconsin had two talented offensive freshmen last year (Jason Bohannon and Trevon Hughes), but neither impressed too much on the defensive end. Barring a star defensive guard in Wisconsin's freshmen class, the Badgers will struggle to handle elite teams over the coming season.

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Season Update

Midnight Madness has come and gone and a new season is upon us. I wasn't going to write too much until the games actually got started, but I feel compelled to say something. The traffic is already starting to pick up (no more of those 25 visitor days from the summer), so it would be lame if I didn't offer you anything other than 6 month old conference previews. So, a few news items from around the country:

ESPN's ShootAround Archive
Many of you have probably seen this already, but it's a great set of previews for every conference. The "Blue Ribbon" previews by team are only for ESPN Insider's, but this preview is free for all.

Kelvin Sampson Not Learning Any Lessons
After all of his previous rule-breaking in regards to making too many recruiting phone calls, you'd think Sampson would be the world's expert on phone call rules. There's no way he'd break the same rules again... would he? Yep. So Indiana loses a scholarship for a year, an assistant joins Sampson on the Cannot Call List, and the NCAA investigates to see if they want to go further. Sports columnists in Indiana are already calling for Sampson to be fired, and for an entire house-cleaning in Bloomington. Now we all know that no top program is going to be perfect, but there's something to be said for Indiana's disastrous basketball program over the last few years. Bob Knight may have been rough on his kids, but he would never have broken any recruiting rules. He ran a clean ship and kept his kids on the up-and-up. The University of Indiana basketball program has always had a great image. They can clean house and fire everyone involved, and still hire a new premier coach and get a bunch of great recruits. It will mean a couple of down years, but it might be worth it. Indiana will be a good team this year, but will a good year or two be worth so much bad press and damage to their reputation?

Georgia Loses Three to Suspensions
Bad news for Georgia fans. The biggest loss here is starting forward Takais Brown. This team was already going to struggle in a talented SEC, where I predicted them to finish 10th. Even if these players return for conference play, a bad out-of-conference stretch could doom any hopes the Bulldogs had at an at-large bid.

Heytfelt Finds a New Reason Not to Play
This looks like a minor injury, so it shouldn't affect the Gonzaga season too much. Heytfelt is a talented kid with NBA written all over him, but he's going to have to play a complete solid season to have a shot at fulfilling his potential.

Juan Palacios Possibly Out for Season
This could be a devastating injury for a Louisville team that has to be entering this season thinking Final Four. According to the article, Pitino says he'll redshirt Palacios if the injury will be for two months or more, but I'm sure that's just a suggestion. If Pitino thinks that Palacios can return and be an important part of conference play, it's hard to imagine Pitino will waste one of his stars on a team that is probably better than his '05 Final Four team. Especially if Kentucky starts playing well again.

OJ Mayo. OJ Mayo. OJ Mayo.
Get used to it. And it wouldn't be an OJ Mayo article without a quick reference to Kevin Love. The dualism between Mayo/Love, black/white, selfish/team player, et cetera is going to be the dominant story of this season. The over/under on Outside the Lines episodes related to this is 5.5. The only reason there will be less is if something big happens on the Title IX or too few blacks in baseball front. The bigger question in my mind is how the rest of each team will fair. It seems to me that UCLA has a better set of returning starters and overall talent, as well as the superior coach. UCLA will surely be an elite team, and USC will have to find a way to be one also if OJ Mayo is really going to dominate national headlines like Durant and Oden from a year before.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Conference Previews

Here's a complete list of all of the conference previews for the 2007-08 season. This will eventually be linked on the right side of the page so it can be accessed all season. Remember that for non-BCS conferences there will be more than one conference listed on each page, so if you click on a conference and see another conference pop up on the top of your screen, simply scroll down. Although if I totally mis-linked a post, let me know that also.

One more thing to note, the Mid-Con has changed names to the Summit Conference, losing Valpo and picking up three other schools along the way. The previews were made before this change happened, but I'm not changing my prediction on the winner of the conference - Southern Utah. The preview for the conference, obviously, will be quite dated. But hopefully it's atleast something for the fans of a conference that doesn't get too much attention in the media anywhere else.

America East
Atlantic Coast
Atlantic Sun
Atlantic 10
Big East
Big Sky
Big South
Big Ten
Big 12
Big West
Conference USA
Ivy League
Missouri Valley
Mountain West
Ohio Valley
Pac 10
Patriot League
Sun Belt