Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Latavious Williams Likely Leaving Memphis For Europe

While there is still uncertainty on whether Latavious Williams is officially leaving Memphis or not, the general consensus now appears to be that he will. ESPN's Andy Katz is already claiming that Williams left for Europe to get a pay day, and that probably was a major factor. But as I said almost two months ago when he first committed to Memphis, a big key was academics. There was almost no chance that he'd be eligible to play in the fall semester, and questions still abounded for the second semester. Things might have been different if he expected to stay at Memphis for several years, but he was almost certainly going to be a one-and-done player. No reason to go to college for half of a season, especially if you might not even get to play.

That said, if Williams is indeed gone, this makes the 2009-10 status of Elliot Williams essential. Without Latavious, Memphis is now dreadfully thin all over the court. The only returning players they have over 6'5" tall are Wesley Witherspoon, Pierre Henderson-Niles and Angel Garcia. Witherspoon and Henderson-Niles were both distant bench presences last season, combining for 26 minutes and 4 points per game. Garcia redshirted his freshman season and is an unknown. Incoming Juco transfer Will Coleman was an after-thought in John Calipari's original recruiting class, but could potentially be the best inside presence that Memphis will now have. Martin Ngaloro is another recruit, and at 6'8" could be a decent player someday, but seems to be a project who won't do too much as a freshman.

Memphis does have four solid guards, but they've only got four of them if Elliot Williams can't play. Preston Laird and Willie Kemp will split time at the point guard position, which leaves Doneal Mack and Roburt Sallie. I'd expect to see those two playing the 2- and 3-spots on the floor for Memphis a lot of the time. Without Elliot Williams, it's difficult to see how those four players can combine to fill up those three spots on the floor - they'd all be playing 30-35 minutes per game, which will wear them all out. Besides, it's tough to see Laird and Kemp on the floor at the same time, since neither is really built to play anything other than point guard.

If Elliot Williams can play then this fills a lot of needs. He can play the 2- or the 3-spots, which would allow him to rotate in and out of those positions with Mack and Sallie, with Laird and Kemp able to play only at point guard. This would allow the limited inside players that Memphis has to only be used at two positions. If Elliot Williams can't play, who else is there that can play the 3-position? Latavious Williams would have been perfect. Without him, I just don't see who is athletic enough. Possibly Wesley Witherspoon, although I think he's too slow.

I'll be sure to have a new post when the Elliot Williams status is officially decided. At that point we can try to fit where they belong in the 2010 Tournament bracket, or decide if they belong at all, with more accuracy. A starting lineup of Willie Kemp, Doneal Mack, Elliot Williams, Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman would be easily the best in Conference USA. Throw in Roburt Sallie, Angel Garcia and Pierre Henderson-Niles as your 8-man rotation and that's the best 8-man rotation in Conference USA. But if Elliot Williams can't play, as I've shown, things suddenly get really difficult. Tulsa is going to be a very good team in 2009-10, and don't be shocked to see them knock off an Elliot Williams-less Memphis team.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Andre Dawkins To Duke A Year Early?

I talked a few weeks ago about how dreadfully thin Duke is right now at the guard position. It's enough of a problem that Duke might actually end up being a bubble team, and they certainly don't seem like a plausible ACC contender. But suddenly there might be a ray of hope, with numerous sources reporting that 2010 recruit Andre Dawkins might actually be able to enroll this fall and be ready to play the 2009-10 season. Jeff Goodman of Fox Sports is actually reporting that it's basically a done deal, although I haven't seen that confirmed.

So what type of player is Dawkins? ESPN's Paul Bincardi compares him to J.J. Redick and Trajan Langdon. He may or not be another Trajan Langdon, but the Redick comparison seems like a forced situation by an author who assumes that most of his readers don't remember any players much beyond three or four years ago. Dawkins is a very good shooter, but he's not yet nearly in the class of the shooter that Redick was. But at the same time, Dawkins is more athletic, and athleticism is sorely needed at a Duke program reeling from the loss of Gerald Henderson and Elliot Williams.

And beyond that, the Blue Devils actually just need depth. With Seth Curry forced to sit out the season due to the transfer from Liberty, the only guards on Duke's roster right now are Nolan Smith and Jon Scheyer. They have two guards. Seriously. If we move up to the small forward position, the only scholarship small forward is Kyle Singler. Singler can certainly play some shooting guard if he has to, but that just makes Duke really thin on the inside, and also very slow and unathletic. You'd rather play Singler as an athletic power forward than as a slow shooting guard, but Coach K might not have a ton of choices.

If Dawkins comes then he provides depth at both guard positions. Singler will now be more free to play inside, and Duke suddenly becomes a fairly dangerous offensive team that will bring a variety of weapons. Dawkins is also a quality perimeter defender, and Duke should be an above average defensive team again. Dawkins won't make Duke an ACC contender, but if he's as good as the hype then Duke could already be off the 2010 Tournament bubble.

While we'll have to wait a little bit longer for confirmation of the eligibility of Andrew Dawkins, Duke fans certainly aren't waiting that long to celebrate. And if you were wondering just how important this news is to their 2009-10 chances, just look at the celebrations all of their message boards.

Shawn Kemp, Jr To Alabama: Delayed A Year

Shawn Kemp, Jr. was one of the top 2009 recruits for the University of Alabama, and he decided to stick with the school after the coaching change to Anthony Grant. Unfortunately, it has now been announced that he has failed to qualify academically and will spend a season at Hargrave Military Academy. He insists that he is still committed to Alabama, and simply now becomes a 2010 recruit.

I spoke about Alabama's 2009-10 chances most recently here. I did think that Kemp would contribute as a freshman, but it's not like he was going to start. He was simply going to add depth. The fact that he won't be there won't seriously damage any chances they have of making the 2010 Tournament. In fact, assuming that Kemp sticks with it and becomes a four-year player at Alabama, this might be a blessing in disguise. He'll be one year more mature throughout his career, which certainly can be nothing but a good thing for a member of the Kemp family.

Also, it's not as if Alabama is one small player away from being an SEC contender right now. Here is my full 2009-10 SEC preview, although it's a bit out-dated considering how much has happened to Alabama since then. More recent takes on the conference are here and here. No matter what happens, Alabama is not going to be in the same class as Kentucky, Tennessee or Mississippi State. I'd say that Florida and Vanderbilt are clearly better as well. So in my mind, their best case scenario is to be the sixth best team in the SEC, and to sneak into the Tournament as a 10-12 seed. More realistically, I think they'll be a bubble team that will most likely be spending Selection Sunday just hoping to make the NIT.

Alabama has a fairly nice base of young players. They certainly don't have a Florida or Kentucky quality recruiting class, and they won't anytime soon, but Alabama's kids are much more likely to stick around for four or five years, and that will help even the playing field. They might be an SEC West contender as early as 2010-11. If Kemp can be a part of that effort then Alabama fans will be content to wait a year.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Very Early 2010-11 Preview: Big East

Villanova: The Wildcats will lose a lot of good players after the 2009-10 season, but that doesn't mean that they won't still be pretty good in 2010-11. The biggest losses, of course, will be Scottie Reynolds and Reggie Redding. That said, the two Coreys (Fisher and Stokes) should be back for their senior season and will provide an excellent starting back court. Antonio Pena will start at the four or five position, Taylor King will almost surely be starting at the three, and Maurice Sutton will be back and providing depth on the inside. The fifth starter will probably come from the outstanding group of freshmen that they have for the 2009-10 season, but we'll have to see how the season plays out before we know who is best. The two best freshmen are probably swing forward Dominic Cheek and power forward Mouphtau Yarou, but point guard Maalik Wayns and forward Isaiah Armwood are quality recruits as well. As for the 2010 recruiting class, Jay Wright has already collected oral commitments from James Bell (Scout: 12 SF, Rivals: 58) and Markus Kennedy (Scout: 11 C, Rivals: 136). Reynolds and Redding will both be tough losses, but assuming that this team can avoid any surprising NBA defections I see no reason why Villanova can't compete for a Big East title in 2010-11.

West Virginia: Da'Sean Butler will be a tough graduation to replace, and Wellington Smith also graduates, but the real worry will be Devin Ebanks and whether he comes back for his junior season in 2010-11. Right now he's projected to be a lottery pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, and if that holds up then I'd expect him to leave. Guards Darryl Bryant and Casey Mitchell, and forwards John Flowers and Kevin Jones, will be the key returners, and Joe Mazzulla is a question mark. Mazzulla should get a medical redshirt for the 2008-09 season which would give him eligibility for the 2010-11 season, but he also has legal troubles and it's not clear if he'll still be at the school. Cam Thoroughman should also be a quality returner. Of the 2009-10 freshmen, shooting guard Dalton Pepper is the most likely to be a big contributor right away. The top 2010 recruit thus far is point guard Noah Cottrill, but Bob Huggins is in the mix for other big names. Huggins has the luxury that he has a very large roster, so he doesn't need to worry about grabbing a ton of recruits. He can aggressively go after the top recruits knowing that his team will be okay even if he can only grab one or two.

Louisville: Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith will be two fairly big graduations, but I don't think Louisville will lose any players early to the 2010 NBA Draft (although Samardo Samuels is a possibility). Guard Preston Knowles and forward Terrence Jennings will likely be the two best returners (other than Samuels), although Peyton Siva might be a key returner if his freshman year ends up being as good as Louisville fans are hoping. Forwards George Goode, Jared Swopshire and Rakeem Buckles should all provide depth inside. The question mark will be guard play, although you can be sure that Rick Pitino will find somebody to fill that spot. Thus far his only signing for the 2010 class is swing forward Josh Langford.

Cincinnati: While the Lance Stephenson circus has the potential to dominate the 2009-10 season at Cincinnati, he's likely to be a one-and-done player and will not be a factor in 2010-11. The real question mark will be star Yancy Gates, and whether he goes pro early. The other key loss will be to graduation: Deonta Vaughn. That said, Cincy will have a ton of good players back for 2010-11. Dion Dixon and Larry Davis will be key back court returners. Ibrahima Thomas, Alvin Mitchell and Steve Toyloy are all key front court returners. Guard Cashmere Wright and forward Darnell Wilks should be quality players off the bench as well. If Gates is back then they will have an excellent front court, and so the question mark for me would be the back court. They've got a whole bunch of guards, but none of them have shown much in the way of being a Big East star. A well-behaved Lance Stephenson will play that role in 2009-10, but I'll have to see somebody ready to play that role in 2010-11 to convince me that they won't take a small step down the conference standings.

Connecticut: It's practically impossible to predict where UConn will be in 2010-11. Part of the reason is the uncertainty of Jim Calhoun's future, and whether he'll stick around for another year. Even if he comes back there will be the uncertainty of the NBA Draft, and whether Kemba Walker, Ater Majok or both will go pro early. Gavin Edwards, Jerome Dyson and Stanley Robinson will all be key graduations as well. If Walker and Majok both go pro then UConn is really in quite a bit of trouble for the 2010-11 season. In fact, the only player who I can be certain will be a quality player that season for UConn is shooting guard Donnell Beverly. If they're even going to be a Tournament team they're going to need quality production right away from the 2009-10 freshmen, highlighted by forwards Alex Oriakhi and Jamal Coombs-McDaniel, and guard Darius Smith. They don't have any signings yet for 2010, but you have to assume that they'll sign a bunch of players, or else collect a few transfers, to at the very least fill out the roster. UConn was excellent in 2008-09, but it's going to be a long time before they'll get back to those heights.

Georgetown: Hoya fans would obviously love to have Greg Monroe back for 2010-11, but you have to figure that he'll enter the 2010 NBA Draft. Still, he'll likely be the only member of the 2009-10 Georgetown team not back for 2010-11, which means that they might be improved even without him. Chris Wright and Austin Freeman will likely be back as the starting back court. Jason Clark and Vee Sanford will provide depth. The inside will be key, especially if Monroe leaves. Hollis Thompson is an excellent swing forward, and will likely start at the 3-spot. Henry Sims, Julian Vaughn and Nikita Mescheriakov will all be returning bigs, although none of them have yet to prove that they can be elite Big East players, which means that they might rely heavily on 2010 power forward Nate Lubick. The other early signing is point guard Markel Starks. The Hoyas will have a quality back court in 2010-11, but if Monroe leaves then the development of other post players will be the key question for Georgetown.

Pittsburgh: 2009-10 is a bit of a rebuilding season for Pittsburgh, but they should be back and improved in 2010-11. Jermaine Dixon will likely be the only loss. Brad Wannamaker and Ashton Gibbs will be a quality starting back court. Travon Woodall will provide depth. There are more questions on the inside, where it will be more about prospects than sure things. Gary McGhee is a decent post player, and Nasir Robinson is a wing prospect. Dante Taylor is expected to be a key post player as a freshman in 2009-10, and another key post prospect is Talib Zanna. Their one oral commitment for 2010 thus far is point guard Isaiah Epps. Pitt should be better in 2010-11 than 2009-10, but the development of their post players will be the key to a potential run at a Big East title.

Seton Hall: Seton Hall is an improving program that should be even better in 2010-11, losing only Eugene Harvey and John Garcia. Harvey is a tough loss, but he's not irreplaceable. They key will be one more season out of Jeremy Hazell, who could end up being one of the highest career scoring players in the history of the Big East. Hazell will be joined in the back court by Jordan Theodore and Keon Lawrence, although they'll be thin in terms of bench play from the guard position unless they can sign a good 2010 player or two. They'll have two good swing players returning in Robert Mitchell and Memphis transfer Jeff Robinson. On the inside they'll likely start Herb Pope, but beyond that there are question marks. Farrakohn Hall and Melvyn Oliver are both quality prospects, and we'll have to see how they develop during the 2009-10 season. They have yet to get commitments from any blue chippers for their 2010 class.

Syracuse: Andy Rautins and Arinze Onuaku will be the two graduates from Syracuse's 2009-10 team. Despite the losses, the front court should still be fairly good in 2010-11, featuring Kris Joseph, Rick Jackson, Wes Johnson and DaShonte Riley. The back court will be a bit of a question mark as it will depend on the development of two decent prospects: Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche. With such a thin group of returners, the key to their depth will be the 2010 recruiting class, which is already looking pretty good. The two best oral commitments thus far are shooting guard Dion Waiters and swing forward C.J. Fair.

St. John's: The Johnnies are slowly but steadily improving under Norm Roberts, and should be even better in 2010-11, with Anthony Mason, Jr being the only graduate. Malik Boothe and Paris Horne will be a good starting back court. Quincy Roberts, TyShawn Edmondson and Dwight Hardy will provide depth. D.J. Kennedy might be the best player returning in 2010-11, and will play in the 3-spot, with Omari Lawrence as his backup. On the inside, Sean Evans and Justin Burrell will probably start, with Rob Thomas and Dele Coker off the bench. With a lot of depth, the key will be whether Norm Roberts can finally land one of the top New York City recruits. He has swung and miss for the past few seasons, and he might need to actually land one if he's finally going to get his kids to the Tournament in 2011.

Notre Dame: The Irish are a thin team in 2009-10, and they will lose even more after the season. Luke Harangody will graduate, as will Tory Jackson and Jonathan Peoples. Their strength in 2010-11 will probably be athletic swing forwards, with both Tyrone Nash and Carleton Scott being quality returners. Beyond that, though, there's not much. Ben Hansbrough should be a good shooting guard in from Mississippi State, but beyond that it's all prospects. The 2009 class doesn't have any blue chippers, but it's deep, and we'll have to see which of those players separates himself from the pack. But even if one or two of those recruits ends up being really good, the Irish will still be dreadfully thin in 2010-11. Expect Mike Brey to spend a large percentage of the next few months looking for recruits and transfers.

Rutgers: Fred Hill is on the hot seat at Rutgers, and a big part of his future will likely depend on the development of Mike Rosario, who was expected to be the savior of Rutgers basketball. He showed flashes of why he was so hyped as a freshman in 2008-09, but he's got a way to go to be one of the best players in the Big East. Thankfully for the Scarlet Knights, just about everybody will be back from the 2009-10 team in 2010-11. Hamady N'Diaye is the only loss to graduation. Corey Chandler will join Rosario in the back court in 2010-11, with Mike Coburn and Kofi Genfi off the bench. In the front court, Gregory Echenique will be the key returner, along with Jonathan Mitchell, Patrick Jackson, Dane Miller and Austin Johnson. The issue is that other than Rosario, Echenique and perhaps Mitchell or Chandler, there isn't a lot of top flight Big East talent on this team. Hill is going to have to get out and find some quality recruits, or he might not be the one coaching this team in 2010-11.

Marquette: 2009-10 is a big time rebuilding season for Buzz Williams, and 2010-11 might be another one. Lazar Haywood will unquestionably be the star of the 2009-10 team, and he'll graduate, as will starter David Cubillan. In fact, I'd expect only swing forward Joseph Fulce and center Chris Otule to be key players on the 2010-11 squad who were a part of the 2008-09 squad, meaning that the 2009 recruiting class will be the key to Marquette's future. It has a ton of talent, but also a ton of players with baggage, be it personal or academic. Jeronne Maymon is a swing forward who might be the most talented (and enigmatic) player in the class, although Erik Williams is also a good player at the same position. Junior Cadougan is an excellent point guard prospect, and Dwight Buycks could be good as well. A key to the class might be 7'2" Youssoupha Mbao, who is a big time project, but has all of the physical skills if he can manage to avoid academic problems. The 2010 recruiting class already has shooting guard Aaron Bowen, but expect Buzz Williams to be on the prowl for another quality prospect or two. Williams is putting together a lot of talent, but also a whole lot of question marks.

Providence: 2009-10 is a rebuilding season for Providence, and they should be improved in 2010-11, despite the loss of star point guard Sharaud Curry. Brian McKenzie will be the other key loss. Key front court returners will be Jamine Peterson, Bilal Dixon, and swing forward Marshon Brooks. James Still and Kadeem Batts are decent inside prospects as well. As for guards, the key will be the development of the 2009 recruiting class, featuring Johnnie Lacy and Vincent Council. Gerard Coleman, a shooting guard, is the first blue chip oral commitment for 2010, although you can be sure that Keno Davis will have some more signings. They are a long way from being a serious Big East contender, but Providence is heading in the right direction with Keno Davis.

South Florida: Stan Heath continues to be so dependent on transfers in and out that it's tough to keep track of South Florida's roster. Chris Howard and Alex Rivas-Sanchez will be the key graduations, although neither are irreplaceable. Key back court returners will be Dominique Jones, Anthony Crater and Justin Leemow Key front court returners will be Augustus Gilchrist, Ron Anderson and Jarrid Famous. Jones and Gilchrist are probably the two best talents, but all in all there just isn't a whole lot of talent here. South Florida has really struggled to recruit since moving to the Big East, and unless they shock the recruiting world in 2010 I just don't see how they'll have the players to hang with the big boys in the Big East in 2010-11.

DePaul: Like South Florida, DePaul has really struggled to recruit since moving to the Big East. The conference is just too big, and it's very tough to convince kids to come to your school when your best argument is that you're hoping to finish 14th in the conference next season. In what is probably a desperation move more than anything else, Jerry Wainwright has revamped his coaching staff with a bunch of Chicago guys, with an eye on trying to put a bit of a fence around the best Chicago talent, but nobody has a lot of hope that it will work. Will Walker will be the one graduation in 2010, but he will be a tough loss. And a tougher loss will be Mac Koshwal if he decides to enter the NBA Draft. Jeremiah Kelly and Michael Bizoukas will be the only two back court returners, so back court recruiting will be a key. Things are a little bit better in the front court, even if Koshwal leaves, because they have several decent prospects, including Mario Stula, Krys Faber, Kene Obi and Tony Freeland. But in the end, other than Koshwal they just have no real Big East quality talent. Unless Wainwright really does start to pull in some of the elite Chicago talent he will probably be looking for a new job sooner rather than later.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Very Early 2010-11 Preview: ACC

North Carolina: As usual, the real worry for North Carolina will not be graduations - the worry will be NBA defections. The seniors on their 2009-10 roster are Marcus Ginyard and Deon Thompson. Ginyard is probably the bigger loss, because his perimeter defense will be difficult to replace. Thompson is a quality player, but he can be replaced easily. A number of players will be potential NBA defections, however. If he gets a full healthy season, don't be surprised to see Tyler Zeller finally go. It's expected that Ed Davis will enter the 2010 NBA Draft, and I don't think too many people will be surprised to see star freshman John Henson leave after one season. Who does that leave for 2010-11?

Larry Drew should still be around, and will likely start at point guard in 2010-11. Will Graves, a 6'6" forward, is more of a question mark. He was suspended for almost all of the 2008-09 season for a vague reason that Roy Williams never really explained. As far as I know, it's still unknown if he'll play in 2009-10, but if he does I'd expect him back for 2010-11 as well. Guard Justin Watts only collected three minutes per game as a freshman in 2008-09, but he has the potential to eventually get big playing time. Of the 2009-10 freshmen, guard Dexter Strickland is the best prospect other than Henson. A real key could potentially be David and Travis Wear, both of whom are 6'10". North Carolina will have excellent size inside in 2009-10 with Deon Thompson, Ed Davis, Tyler Zeller and John Henson, but the possibility of all four being gone after the season will leave a huge gap inside that the Wears might have to fill. Roy Williams already has collected verbal commitments from two top flight recruits for 2010, but both are guards: Reggie Bullock (Scout: 2 SG, Rivals: 8) and Kendall Marshall (Scout: 5 PG, Rivals: 33). He's going to have to find some size if North Carolina is to be a top team in 2010-11. Right now North Carolina seems to be showing interest in 6'6" Harrison Barnes (#2 overall recruit according to Rivals.com), they're also involved with 6'8" CJ Leslie and 6'10" Josh Smith, both of whom are blue chippers. That said, I don't see how North Carolina doesn't have a major size problem unless Tyler Zeller or John Henson chooses to stay for another season.

Clemson: The Tigers had a busy offseason thus far with Terrence Oglesby heading to Europe, and then with Noel Johnson decommitting from USC and taking himself to Clemson. Johnson is unlikely to be a one-and-done player, so he should be a key player on the 2010-11 team. With no Clemson players likely to leave early for the 2010 NBA Draft, the only issue will be graduations. Trevor Booker will be the biggest graduation, in more ways than one. His inside presence will be impossible to replace. The other key graduation will be 6'6" forward David Potter.

A key player on the 2010-11 season will likely be guard Demontez Stitt. Stitt led the team in assists in 2008-09, although by 2010-11 the starting point guard could potentially be 5'9" Andre Young. Power forward Jerai Grant and guard Tanner Smith will also be key returners. Another player to keep an eye on is 6'6" Bryan Narcisse. Of the 2009-10 freshmen, Noel Johnson and Milton Jennings should both be key players right away. Johnson is a swing forward, and Jennings is a power forward. Small forward Donte Hill and power forward Devin Booker are also quality recruits - although it's possible that neither will play a big role as a freshman, don't be surprised to see both as key players on the 2010-11 squad. Of the 2010-11 recruits, they so far have verbal commitments from power forward Marcus Thornton (Rivals: 138) and Juco transfer Justin Johnson (a 6'5" small forward). Obviously Trevor Booker will be an impossible replacement, but Clemson will still be deep and talented in 2010-11, with quality at all five positions.

Maryland: Gary Williams has a quality team put together for 2009-10, probably his best in several seasons. But the Terps will likely take a pretty large step backwards for 2010-11. Greivis Vasquez graduates, as do Landon Millbourne and Eric Hayes. Those three represented the only double-digits scorers from Maryland's 2008-09 team, and will be a very tough loss. The key returners for 2010-11 will be guards Adrian Bowie and Sean Mosley, forwards Dino Gregory, Cliff Tucker, Jin-Soo Kim and Jerome Burnley, and the 2009 freshman class. That freshman class features two 6'8" forwards: Jordan Williams and James Padgett. Of the two, Williams is more likely to contribute right away. Of the verbal commitments for 2010, the key thus far is 6'5" guard Terrence Ross.

One thing that has to worry Maryland fans about this group is the lack of athleticism (at least by ACC standards), and the lack of a clear star. Adrian Bowie should be a double-digit scorer in 2010-11, but other than that I'm not sure who else will be good. Dino Gregory has potential, as does Sean Mosley. Jin-Soo Kim should be a solid sixth man, and he might even start, but it's hard to see him ever being one of the best players on an ACC team. Can this team get back to the NCAA Tournament? Maybe. But I think they'll need to sign another big recruit or two, or one of their current players needs to take a leap to become a lot better than they were in 2008-09.

Duke: The Blue Devils will lose quite a bit of their roster after the 2009-10 season, but not enough for me to think that they won't be better in 2010-11. The 2010 graduates will be Lance Thomas, Martynas Pocius, Jon Scheyer and Brian Zoubek. Kyle Singler would be a senior in 2010-11, but it's likely that he'll go to the NBA a year early. So who does that leave? At the guard position they'll have Nolan Smith, Tyler Thornton and Andre Dawkins (assuming Thornton and Dawkins stick with their verbal commitments for 2010). Seth Curry will also be able to play in 2010-11 after transferring in from Liberty. Both Curry and Dawkins are excellent shooters, and the question will be offensive creation. It's not clear if Curry will be athletic enough to be a quality point guard in the ACC, or if Nolan Smith will be good enough. At the forward position they'll return Miles Plumlee, Olek Czyz, Ryan Kelly and Mason Plumlee, and Josh Hairston is a 2010 verbal commitment as well.

The question for Duke the past few years has been inside presences, and that will continue to be a question mark. In fact, Lance Thomas and Kyle Singler have probably been their best two inside players in several seasons (if you count Singler as an "inside" player... he's actually physically larger than Thomas, which is why I included him), and both will likely be gone after the 2009-10 season. Duke fans are high on the Plumlees, with Mason probably being the better prospect. Miles wasn't bad in very limited time in 2008-09, and it remains to be seen what type of player he'll turn into. I don't see much of a future for Czyz, although you don't want to completely write off a player after just one season. Ryan Kelly will be a freshman in 2009-10, and is actually a higher rated recruit than Mason Plumlee. Plumlee is more of a post player and should be the better rebounder, but Kelly is supposed to have a nice face-up jumper and could potentially be a good scorer. Joshua Hairston is a solid 2010 recruit (Scout: 10 PF, Rivals: 55), but at 6'8", 195 pounds, he's got some growing to do. Duke continues to be in the hunt for a bunch of other blue chip 2010 recruits, so don't be surprised to see another big signing or two before the 2010-11 season rolls around.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets don't lose much to graduation after the 2009-10 season, with 6'8" Zachery Peacock being the only member of the regular rotation who will go. But that doesn't mean Georgia Tech won't lose a lot, as Gani Lawal is expected to skip his senior season to enter the 2010 Draft, and superfrosh Derrick Favors is expected to be a one-and-done player. That said, Georgia Tech has built up a fairly athletic core, and many of those players will be back for 2010-11. Iman Shumpert was one of the best freshmen in the nation in 2008-09, and should be one of the best players in the ACC in 2010-11 (assuming he doesn't go pro). Lance Storrs, Maurice Miller and Nick Foreman will all be quality guards, as will 2009-10 freshmen Mfon Udofia and Glen Rice, Jr. Udona is expected to be a quality point guard who can lead the offense as a freshman, and could potentially be starting in the back court with Shumpert in 2010-11. Storrs, Miller, Foreman and Rice will all provide depth.

On the inside, 7-footer Brad Sheehan and Bassirou Dieng are decent prospects, as are 2009-10 freshmen Daniel Miller and Kammeon Holsey. Brian Oliver is a quality wing player who will also be a freshman in 2009-10. They so far have no commits for their 2010 class, but that should change soon. Paul Hewitt has been putting together quality recruiting class after quality recruiting class, and he's in the mix for a number of top 2010 players. Until we know exactly who they sign, it's too hard to predict exactly how good the Yellow Jackets will be in 2010-11, but don't be surprised to see another quality season from them.

Virginia: The Cavaliers don't lose all too much to graduation after the 2009-10 season. Calvin Baker is probably the most important loss, although Jamil Tucker and Jerome Meyinsse will also be in the regular rotation in 2009-10 and will graduate. The real question will be Sylven Landesberg, who was arguably one of the five best freshmen in the nation in 2008-09. Right now it's probably 50-50 whether he enters the 2010 NBA Draft. Landesberg wasn't the only good freshman on the team in 2008-09, as Sammy Zeglinski also played well, and will likely be the starting point guard in 2010-11. If Landesberg goes pro then I'd expect either Jeff Jones or Mamadi Diane to join Zeglinski in the backcourt in the starting lineup. Mustapha Farrakhan and Jontel Evans will provide depth at the guard position.

On the inside, the top Virginia returner for 2010-11 will likely be 6'8" Mike Scott, who is an excellent rebounder. 7-footer Assane Sene will also be a key returner. 6'11" John Brandenberg was a blue chip 2008 recruit, and despite not playing much in 2008-09 should be a decent prospect for the future. 2009 recruit Tristan Spurlock should be an excellent wing player, and I think he'll start at the 3-spot for Virginia in 2010-11. Virginia has also collected a verbal commitment from 6'8" post player, Will Regan. It remains to be seen who else Virginia will sign for that 2010 class, and obviously the Landesberg situation is up in the air, but Virginia has a great coach in Tony Bennett, and he will win a lot of games with whoever he's putting on the court. That said, even Bennett probably needs another recruit or two in order to make the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

Wake Forest: The Deamon Decons are going to lose a whole bunch of players from their 2009-10 squad. L.D. Williams, Ishmael Smith, Chas McFarland and David Weaver will all graduate. A question mark will be what Al-Farouq Aminu chooses to do, but I was honestly a bit surprised to see him even come back for the 2009-10 season, and I expect him to enter the 2010 NBA Draft, especially with so many of his teammates leaving. So who is left? Tony Woods was an excellent freshman in 2008-09 who was simply overshadowed by Aminu. If Aminu goes pro I wouldn't be surprised if Woods is the top player on Wake's 2010-11 team. Ty Walker was the third quality recruit from that 2008 class, and he could start in the front court with Woods in 2010-11.

Beyond those three players, the best returner for 2010-11 will probably be Ari Stewart, a skilled wing player who will be a freshman in 2009-10. Also keep an eye on freshman guard C.J. Harris. But the key for Wake Forest, especially if Aminu goes pro, will be the 2010 recruiting class, which does look very good. Of the verbal commits thus far, shooting guard J.T. Terrell and forwards Travis McKie and Melvin Tabb are all among the Top 100 recruits in the nation according to Rivals.com. Point guard Tony Chennault is also a decent recruit. With so many players leaving, the only way Wake Forest will make the Tournament in 2011 will be if this recruiting class turns out to be stellar, or if Aminu chooses to come back for his junior season.

Boston College: 2009-10 could be a long season for Boston College, but basically everybody will be back for the 2010-11 season. Tyler Roche will be the only graduate. In fact, four starters from the 2008-09 squad will all be back for the 2010-11 season: guard Rakim Sanders, and forwards Joe Trapani, Corey Raji and Josh Southern. Expect Reggie Jackson, the top recruit from Boston College's 2008 class, to join Sanders in the back court to create a very solid starting lineup. The other key returners will be guards Biko Paris and Dallas Elmore, and forwards Cortney Dunn and Evan Ravenel. There are no big time recruits yet signed for the 2010 class, but that obviously could change. Boston College will be better in 2010-11 than in 2009-10, but the amount that they'll improve will be dependent on that 2010 recruiting class.

Virginia Tech: Lewis Witcher will likely be the only member of Virginia Tech's 2009-10 rotation who will graduate in 2010, so the main question for the Hokies will be whether Malcolm Delaney stays for his senior season or enters the 2010 NBA Draft. The other key returner for the back court will be shooting guard Dorenzo Hudson. The top freshman guard in 2009-10 will likely be Erik Green, who will need to have his development accelerated after the transfer out of point guard Hank Thorns.. In the front court, key returners will be Jeff Allen, Victor Davila, J.T. Thompson, Terrell Bell and Cadarian Raines. Allen is a quality player who will unquestionably start, but the rest of those players are all question marks, and it's impossible to tell at this early stage which of them will get to start. The only verbal commitment for 2010 at this point is Jarell Eddie, a very good wing recruit. If Malcolm Delaney does go pro then there will be a huge lack of talent and depth at the guard position, and the top recruiting priority for Seth Greenberg has got to be finding some guards for the 2010-11 season.

North Carolina State: NC State has been heading backwards for the last couple of seasons, and it's not obvious why things will turn around in 2010-11. Dennis Horner and Farnold Degand will both graduate from what will already be a weak rotation in 2009-10. The best back court returner will probably be Javier Gonzalez, although there are also high hopes for 2009-10 freshman Lorenzo Brown (assuming he qualifies academically to play, which as far as I know at this point is not a sure thing). Other key back court returners will be C.J. Williams, Julius Mays and Scott Wood. Key front court returners will be Tracy Smith, Johnny Thomas, Deshawn Painter and Richard Powell. None of those players are particularly good, with Tracy Smith being the only one I'd trust right now to be a decent ACC-quality starter in 2010-11. Their only oral commitment for 2010 is currently point guard Ryan Harrow (Scout: 8 PG, Rivals: 25). Another quality recruit or two could guarantee NC State a better 2010-11 season than 2009-10, but even that probably wouldn't make them a legitimate Tournament contender.

Florida State: The Seminoles are rebuilding in 2009-10, but they could still lose a few more key players before the 2010-11 season. Ryan Reid is the only regular who will be graduating, but both Solomon Alabi and Chris Singleton could potentially go into the NBA. Alabi is considered a very likely lottery pick in the 2010 Draft, which means that he's probably gone, but there's a good chance that Singleton will stay. The other best returners in 2010-11 will be forward Jordan DeMercy and guards Derwin Kitchen and Michael Snaer. Other key returners will be guards Luke Loucks and Deividas Dulkys, and forwards Xavier Gibson and Terrence Shannon. The 2010-11 season will likely depend on the good 2010 recruiting class that Leonard Hamilton is putting together. The top verbal commitment is probably 6'8" slasher Okaro White, although Ian Miller is also considered one of the top point guards in the 2010 class. We will have a better idea of Florida State's 2010-11 chances when we see how their young players develop throughout 2009-10. It will also really help if they can avoid any NBA defections.

Miami (Fl): 2009-10 is a rebuilding season for the Hurricanes, and 2010-11 could be another one. Dwayne Collins, James Dews, Adrian Thomas, Cyrus McGowan all graduate, which guts almost the entire core of the 2009-10 team. The top returners on the 2010-11 team will likely be point guard Malcolm Grant, swing forward DeQuan Jones and shooting guard Durand Scott. Other key returners will be guards Eddie Rios, Garrius Adams and Antoine Allen, and forwards Julian Gamble and Donnavan Kirk. As of now they have no 2010 commitments, but you have to imagine that Frank Haith is going to sign a whole bunch of players, because as of now their 2010-11 roster is looking very thin.

Very Early 2010-11 Previews

I'm going to try these 2010-11 "Very Early" Previews, and we'll see if people like them. In some sense they're a bit silly because there are so many uncertainties, but I am not going to be actually ranking teams or predicting conference champs a year ahead. What I'm going to be talking about will be general issues: who is graduating, who will be back, who is being recruited, and who does each team need to sign.

Why am I going through this effort? I'll admit that it's mostly selfish. For one, it will make my real 2010-11 Previews (which will not be written until April of 2010) easier to put together. It will also help keep me sane. For those who don't know about the economics of blogs, I can assure you that I don't make much money off of this site - I have a real job that pays the bills. This site is a hobby of mine, and it will be good to keep active during the dead time of the college basketball season (the July-through-September period).

That said, I have also been told by several readers that they like that I keep this site going throughout the full year. There isn't much to talk about this time of year without going into gossip stories, which I hate to do. So hopefully this will keep folks interested. And I do think this will - I'm sure fans will come in to tell me what mistakes I've made.

I am not going to go through all of the conferences, of course. Right now my goal is to do the six BCS conferences. Please note that in all of the "Very Early" Previews, the teams are not ordered by any kind of ranking - they are just ordered in the same way they are in the 2009-10 previews. All conferences that have been completed will be listed below:

Big East
Big Ten
Big 12

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Friday, July 03, 2009

How Good Will Cincy Be?

I promised that I'd talk about more about Cincinnati's signing of Lance Stephenson, and here it is:

First of all, it's worthwhile to note that Cincinnati was going to be good even before they signed Stephenson. I've seen people debating whether they think Stephenson will push Cincy into the top 7 or 8 in the Big East, but in my mind they were already there. Just a week or so ago I had them as an 8 seed in the Tournament. Last year's team was a lot closer to making the Tournament than most people realized, and they bring back absolutely everybody. Yancy Gates looks like a player who will really take the leap now that he's played a full Big East season and knows what to expect.

On top of that, Cincy is welcoming in a new transfer: Oklahoma State's Ibrahima Thomas. Thomas played one full season at Oklahoma State (2007-08), and these were his per-40 minute averages from that season: 13.8 points, 9.4 rebounds, 7.1 fouls. He is a very athletic talent who will be a great complement to Gates, as long as he can control himself and stay out of foul trouble. Cincy also welcomes Cashmere Wright, a highly touted guard from Cincy's 2008 recruiting class who had to redshirt his freshman season with an injury. He might actually start in 2009-10 as a redshirt freshman.

Assuming Stephenson is able to play next season (obviously there is still the possibility that the NCAA will revoke his eligibility due to some money changing hands during his tumultuous high school career), Cincy will have a very good starting lineup, and will be very deep. Obviously Gates, Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn will start. I'd be shocked if Ibrahima Thomas doesn't start at the power forward position. Gates will play inside with Thomas, Stephenson is a swing forward, and Vaughn is a guard. The other guard position might be taken by Wright, although that's not certain right now. But either way, Cincy will have great depth. A guy like Larry Davis started 28 games last season and might be a sixth or seventh man this coming season. I expect the Bearcats to go ten players deep easily, and this will be so important with the grueling Big East schedule. It shouldn't have been as big of a surprise that teams with little depth last season (Notre Dame, Marquette and Georgetown come to mind) faded down the stretch.

Now of course, Stephenson is a risk. He could be a behavior problem who creates strife in the locker room and makes the team worse. I've always liked Mick Cronin, but this might be his toughest task yet. He needs to make sure that Stephenson takes the national criticism as motivation to be a better person and teammate. That he sets out to prove everybody wrong by being a model player and by leading Cincinnati to great success. Certainly the opportunities will be there for the Bearcats next season, if Stephenson can set his ego aside and be the player he can be.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Lance Stephenson To Cincinnati

The long Lance Stephenson recruiting saga is finally over, with "Born Ready" finally settling on Cincinnati. Obviously I'd like to get into what this means for Cincinnati next season, but unfortunately I'm away from home with very little access to the internet. A long analysis will be impossible for another 2-3 days. I'm hoping to have something up either Saturday evening or Sunday morning, so stay tuned.