Monday, November 05, 2012

Previewing Thursday, November 15th, Part 1 of 2

The college basketball regular season tips off on Friday, November 9th. Thursday, November 15th marks the end of the first week, and thus the end of these previews. But there are so many great games on November 15th that I'm going to spread them across two posts. This is the first of those two posts.

If you haven't read the other previews, you can find links to those below:

November 9th, Part 1 of 2
November 9th, Part 2 of 2
November 10th
November 11th
November 12th
November 13th 
November 14th

 (all times eastern)

Dayton vs Colorado (12:30 PM, ESPN3) - This game is part of the opening round of the Charleston Classic. The winner of this game will play the winner of Baylor vs Boston College. The loser will play the loser of that same game. Colorado is an interesting team preseason just because the expectations seem to vary so widely depending on who you talk to. There are people who think they'll be the third best team in the Pac-12, and others who think they'll just stink. Last season they went 11-7 in Pac-12 play, won the Pac-12 tournament and then knocked off UNLV in the NCAA Tournament Round of 64. That sounds more impressive than it was - the reality was that the Pac-12 was terrible and Colorado wouldn't have even been under serious consideration for an at-large bid had they fallen in the Pac-12 title game.

Colorado lost three starters to graduation, though they bring back star Andre Roberson. And their freshman backcourt duo last season (Askia Booker and Spencer Dinwiddie) are poised to be pretty good Pac-12 starters as sophomores. Colorado's front court will be very young, though, and much will depend on 2012 star recruits Josh Scott and Xavier Johnson. The biggest problem for the Buffaloes is that the Pac-12 will still be down this season (though a bit better than last season). That means that their opportunities to earn an at-large bid will be limited in conference play, and it will be very difficult for them to overcome a poor non-conference performance. So they will need these freshmen to jump immediately into the deep end of the swimming pool and win games like this one. They cannot afford to strike out at the Charleston Classic.

Archie Miller had a reasonably successful first season as head coach of Dayton. They went 9-7 in the Atlantic Ten, won 20 games overall and earned a spot in the NIT. They lost three starter to graduation, though, including star Chris Johnson. And since the two returning starters are seniors now, this is going to be a program going through a roster transition. Miller has put together a nice 2012 recruiting class that will, he hopes, provide the core of a successful team two or three years from now. The highest rated recruit in the class is swing forward Dyshawn Pierre. Also look for a large immediate impact from Vee Sanford, a shooting guard transfer from Georgetown who has two years of eligibility remaining. In my opinion, Dayton is something of a long shot at-large contender. But beating Colorado will not be too improbable a proposition - this should be a competitive game.

#19 Baylor vs Boston College (3 PM, ESPNU) - This is the second game from the opening round of the Charleston Classic. The winner will play the winner of Colorado/Dayton on November 16th. The losers of the two games will play each other as well. Baylor is a team that had a lot of turnover - Perry Jones, Quincy Miller, Quincy Acy and Anthony Jones are gone. The reins of the team will be turned over to Pierre Jackson, their star point guard. He'll start in the backcourt alongside Brady Heslip, who amazingly is only a junior. Next year he's going to seem like a 9th year senior - it feels like he's been around forever. The key for a guy like Heslip, though, is that he needs to be left open. Will defenses sag as much off of Heslip without having to worry about bigs like Perry Jones and Quincy Acy? It's unlikely. In fact, Cory Jefferson is the only big man returning from last year's rotation. That means that much of Baylor's success this season will depend on the play of stud 2012 recruits Isaiah Austin and Ricardo Gathers.

Boston College obviously won't pose too much of a challenge to Baylor here, but they should be improved. Steve Donahue had to basically start his roster from scratch last season. Five of the team's top six minute earners were freshmen, led by a pair of big men: Ryan Anderson and Dennis Clifford. Jordan Daniels, another freshman, was inconsistent at the point last season, so it will be interesting to see if that position turns over to Donahue's top 2012 recruit, point guard Olivier Hanlan. Boston College should definitely be better this season, but it's a long way to go from 9-22 to being a competitive ACC team, and it's hard to see how they can get there in fewer than 2-3 years. It's not like Donahue is bringing in McDonalds All-Americans.

#6 North Carolina State vs Penn State (5 PM, ESPN2) - This game is part of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off. The winner will play the winner of Providence vs UMass on November 16th. The two losers will play each other as well. I've been saying for a while that I think NC State is overrated, even though I don't think Penn State will provide too much of a test. I've already talked at length about the most important NC State players. If there's something else to add I guess it's about outside shooting and paint scoring. Last year, Richard Howell was the only consistently strong paint scorer for the Wolfpack. CJ Leslie will be looking to add that to his game, if for no other reason than to impress NBA scouts. Also look for star 2012 recruit Rodney Purvis, who is known for his ability to get into the lane and score. And on the outside, can NC State get somebody besides Scott Wood who can reliably hit threes?

Penn State should be improved from last year's team, which went 4-14 in the Big Ten. They return three starters, including star Tim Frazier, and also add a quality transfer is DJ Newbill (9.2 points and 6.2 rebounds per game as a freshman at Southern Miss). The player with the most room to grow is 6'8" Ross Travis, who led the team in offensive rebounding as a freshman last season. But the reason why I don't see a large improvement for Penn State is because I don't believe they have the type of top end talent that the top half of the Big Ten has. And yes, I know Tim Frazier was named by the media as first team All-Big Ten last season, but as I talked about on twitter earlier today, that was a joke. Frazier put up a ton of stats last season because the rest of his team stunk and he had to do everything. But he collected stats in volume - not particularly efficiently. Anybody who thought he had a better season than Aaron Craft and Jordan Taylor should have their All-Big Ten voting privileges revoked.

St. John's vs Charleston (5 PM, ESPNU) - I think this game technically counts as a road game for St. John's, though it's part of the Charleston Classic. The winner of this game will play the winner of Auburn and Murray State on November 16th. The losers of those two games will play as well. Steve Lavin should be back on the sidelines for the Johnnies, which is obviously a good thing. Once again this is going to be a St. John's roster with a lot of new faces. They finished last season with only six available players. One of those six (Moe Harkless) went pro, though the rest will be back. God'sgift Achiuwa is probably the top returner, though you can make an argument for the team's top perimeter scorer, D'Angelo Harrison. Lavin's top 2012 recruit is 6'8" swing forward Jakarr Sampson.

Charleston should be a good challenge for St. John's. They return all but one player from a team that was a competitive 10-8 in the Southern Conference last season (though that one loss is last year's leading scorer, Antwaine Wiggins). Charleston moves into a new era with the retirement of Bobby Cremins. Doug Wojcik, recently fired from Tulsa, is the replacement. The player I'm most intrigued to see is Adjehi Baru, who was something of a blue chip recruit when Cremins landed him. As a freshman he was good, but nothing special. But as we all know, the biggest improvement most college basketball players make is between their freshman and sophomore seasons. If he can take a step to the next level then Charleston really could pull off this upset.

Illinois State at Drexel (7 PM, NBC Sports Network) - Drexel is a team that enters this season with a lot of hype. They are my pick to win the Colonial, and are also the pick of the media. Drexel was an underrated team last season. After winning a couple of games in the NIT they finished the season 29-7, including a 16-2 performance in the Colonial. It was a soft schedule and a slow start to their season that doomed their at-large chances, but they were (according to the computers) better than several of the teams that did earn at-large bids. Samme Givens is the one graduation, and he was a starter but is far from irreplaceable. Drexel's star is 6'4" point guard Frantz Massenat. Daryl McCoy is a monster on the boards, and they have another strong scorer is swing man Damion Lee.

Illinois State fans had to be insulted by the loss of Tim Jankovich. He left his head coaching job to take an assistant job at SMU under Larry Brown (he's the "head coach in waiting", but that title has proven not to be as reliably true it sounds in college sports). Dan Muller, a long time assistant at Vanderbilt, is the new head man at Illinois State. Nic Moore went to SMU with Jankovich, but everybody else is back from a team that went 9-9 in the Missouri Valley last season. Big man Jackie Carmichael is the star, though 6'7" Jon Ekey is excellent as well. I do think Illinois State will be a bubble team (and for the time being I have them very narrowly in the Field of 68), but if they fall short it will likely be because of poor point guard play. With the loss of Nic Moore, 2012 recruit Kaza Keane is the only point guard on the roster. 6'3" Johnny Hill might be an option at the point as well. A road win at Drexel would be a great start to that at-large resume.

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