It’s hard to quantify what Muhammad Ali meant to the city of Louisville.
On one hand, you have the brash, slick-talking, greatest-of-all-time champion who predicted when he would knock out his opponents and turned press conferences into circuses. The Louisville Lip.
On the other, the humanitarian and social activist who was called a draft dodger, a Muslim extremist and an agitator. The former Cassius Clay. The man who converted to Islam, changed his name and marched for justice in several realms outside the ring.
I’m sorry, Muhammad. I should’ve respected this sooner.
It was a surreal feeling to get the news Friday night – a man that almost felt too big to be bothered with something like death. The same man who took on both George Foreman and the United States government. And won.
We knew you were ours. This was your city. You were Louisville’s native son. We’ve seen you accomplish so much, anything more these days seemed trivial. The same man whose name adorns a museum, a street and countless other monuments within the city limits got the Presidential Medal of Freedom? Cool. What else happened today.
I’m sorry, Muhammad. Your best should’ve always been recognized.
He was a man that, no matter the constraints of his time, always appreciated where he came from. He gave credit to Louisville when he could. Notably shouting the city out after beating Foreman in Zaire when the world was watching. Yet from all I’ve heard and seen, some from older generations didn’t reciprocate. And some of those from younger generations didn’t study your history enough appreciate it.
I’m sorry, Muhammad. You deserved better.
Men like Ali come around once in a lifetime. He was lucky enough to be the best during boxing’s heyday and also thrown in the mix during a period in United States history when the country was in turmoil. The Vietnam War and the Civil Rights Movement were ripe for a champion to speak up and be heard when he was the voice for millions. Muhammad Ali was that voice.
Whether you chose to hear it usually determined how you feel – and how those that came after you feel – about him now.
I’m sorry, Muhammad. Your voice was powerful.
On the way home from work last night, I drove my usual stretch of Muhammad Ali Boulevard, this time with the final moments of the call from the Rumble in the Jungle blasting. It’s one of the top calls in sports history, made possible by Ali again defying the odds in front of millions.
“Ali has won. Ali has won by a knockdown. By an knockdown. The thing they said was impossible, he’s done it.”
Impossible. Ali did it. It became second nature. Foreman. Frazier. A federal conviction. Boxing exile. Parkinson’s Disease. He beat it all by how he lived with the situation he was dealt.
But now, that’s all we have. The epic memories of a man who impacted billions around the world with his kindness, bravado and an unwillingness to bend to you or anyone else’s beliefs.
At his very core, Ali was a man who stood for what he believed in in front of the entire world. And he made sure you knew he wasn’t backing down.
I’m sorry, Muhammad. There should be more like you.
You shook up the world, Champ. You’re a bad man.
RIP The Greatest.
With all the hype that’s surrounded Saturday’s matchup between Kentucky and Louisville, it’s been almost impressive that one has called this year’s version of the annual meeting between the no. 4 Cardinals and the no. 1 Wildcats the biggest in the rivalry’s history. It can be argued either way, that it is or isn’t.
But no matter which way you look at it, one aspects of the game remain important over everything: This is the last foreseeable major obstacle for Kentucky which could keep them from at least a perfect regular season.
In the modern history of this rivalry (it was played consistently and 1913-22 and in 1948, 1951 and 1959. But was started again on a yearly basis when the two teams met in the Mideast Regional final of the 1983 NCAA Tournament), there have been an incredible amount of great moments and stunning games. Back And Forth did the digging and came up with the Top 5 moments from the UK/UofL rivalry.
5.) Samaki Walker Goes For a Triple-Double – Jan. 1, 1995
On New Year’s Day ’95, Samaki Walker, a future Top 10 pick in the NBA Draft, gave a performance those in the rivalry are still talking about.
With the Cardinals taking on the no. 5 Wildcats in Freedom Hall in Louisville, Walker recorded the first triple-double in school history with 14 points, 10 rebounds and 11 blocks as UofL won 88-86. The game was close throughout, as Tony Delk dropped in a game-high 23 points for the Wildcats.
Much like two years later (as you’ll see lower in the column), Kentucky fans would get a measure of satisfaction at the end of the season, as then-coach Rick Pitino (which is still hard for some UK fans to stomach) would lead Kentucky to their first national title in 18 years later that season.
4.) Patrick Sparks Draws The Line – Dec. 21, 2004
Patrick Sparks wasn’t even recruited by Kentucky out of high school (he transferred there after two seasons at Western Kentucky) but he made his mark on the Wildcats with his performance – mainly with 0.6 seconds left – against Louisville in 2004.
Sparks scored 12 second half points for the no. 11 Wildcats to keep them steady with the no. 14 Cardinals, and got his chance to etch his name into the rivalry’s lore when he inbounded the ball with Kentucky down 58-57 with 4.8 seconds left. The Central City, Ky. native got the ball to Kelenna Azubuike, who drew three defenders and passed it back to Sparks for a three-pointer from the baseline corner.
Sparks pump-faked, catching a charging Ellis Myles in the air as Sparks jumped into the air (though a large portion of the UofL fanbase will argue he walked in the process) and drew the foul on Myles. A visit to the monitor confirmed the officials’ call and Sparks hit all three free throws for a 60-58 UK victory.
3.) UofL Stuns No. 3 Kentucky – Dec. 26, 1997
It’s one of those games no one around the state (or rivalry in general) saw coming.
UK was ranked no. 4 in the nation and on their way to the program’s seventh national title – and second in three seasons – while UofL was struggling towards the end of the Denny Crum era (they wouldn’t when 20 games in a season in his last four years as coach) and would end the year 12-20. But first they had to go to Rupp Arena in Lexington and take on UK, who had already beaten three Top 25 teams that season, their lone loss coming to then-no.1 Arizona in the Maui Invitational.
The Cardinals didn’t have a single player on their roster over 6-foot-7, and were playing the Wildcats’ arsenal of future pros including Scott Padgett, Jamaal Magloire and Nazr Muhammed. It didn’t matter. Louisville hit 12-of-22 threes, held Padgett to 7 points and UK to 5-for-23 from three-point range, and got 20 points from Eric Johnson to pull the 79-76 shocker.
2.) Aaron Harrison Starts His Shooting Spree – March 28, 2014
In the previous three seasons, the Louisville-Kentucky rivalry has jumped up considerably with the high level of play from both programs – they’ve combined for two national championships and three Final Fours. The fact that the schools have met in two of the last three seasons in the NCAA Tournament hasn’t hurt, either.
Last year, the Cardinals came in as the favorite, a no. 4 seed playing against the 8-seed Wildcats, who were riding the momentum of their win over previously undefeated Wichita State in what is known by many as the college basketball game of the year for 2013-14.
The game was close throughout, but Aaron Harrison opened what became his legendary string of game-winning shots with his left-corner three with 39.1 seconds left to give the Wildcats a 70-68 lead. UK would go on to win 74-69 and end their season with a loss in the national title game to UConn.
1.) Lou-Orleans v. Blue-Orleans – March 31, 2012
For Louisville and Kentucky fans, it was the pinnacle of the rivalry’s stage. The two storied college basketball programs from the Bluegrass State playing for the right to play in the national championship game in the Mercedes Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
Kentucky rolled through the regular season (including a 69-62 victory over then no. 4-Louisville on Dec. 31) at 36-2 at the time, grabbing the no. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament. Louisville made a run to the Final Four as a no. 4 seed and an upset of no. 1 seed Michigan State in the Sweet 16.
The Wildcats led 35-28 at halftime and the Cardinals tied the game at 49-49 on Peyton Siva’s three with 9:11 to play in the game. But future no. 1 overall pick Anthony Davis went for 18 points and 14 rebounds while Big Blue shot 57.1 percent overall and held the Cardinals to 34.8 percent from the field. Louisville actually out-rebounded the Wildcats 37-32, but Siva led UofL with 11 points as Kentucky’s talent proved to be superior.
So no matter if you agree with this list or not, it’s probably not up for debate that given recent history with this rivalry (this moment, this moment and this moment get honorable mentions nods), people can expect to see something during the game that they’ll remember for years down the road. It’s what makes this rivalry great, and arguably the best in college basketball.
David Harten runs The Backboard Chronicles. Find him on Twitter at @David_Harten.
Yes, Monday night, TCU beat Grambling State, a team that has zero wins against Division I teams this season.
Yes, TCU’s 12-0 record consists of victories over three SWAC teams, the worst team in the Pac-12 (Washington State) and what will probably turn out to be a middle-of-the-pack SEC team in Ole Miss.
Yes, TCU hasn’t been challenged all that much. But that’s not anywhere near the point that will be made in the following paragraphs.
Bottom line, when you look at the no. 25 ranking on the Associated Press Top 25 poll right now, you see “TCU” next to that number. The Horned Frogs — the same program that went 0-18 in Big 12 play last season and 9-22 overall — are ranked in the Top 25, in basketball. And judging by what they’ve got on the roster, there’s nothing stopping them from being a .500 team in conference play by March and, dare anyone say it, an NCAA Tournament team.
Trent Johnson’s team doesn’t do it pretty. His top scorer is Kyan Anderson at 12.8 points per game. Next on that list? Kenrich Williams at 9.5 per. But the Horned Frogs’ scoring depth has made having a big-time scorer unnecessary, with six players averaging between 9.5 and 7.4 points per game.
But the Horned Frogs are winning collectively. They’re in the Top 50 nationally in rebounds, points and assists per game, as well as team field goal percentage and blocks (which they’re ranked 10th prior to the Grambling win). They’re 13th in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 55.7 points per game. They’re not just winning, but winning effectively.
Again, the schedule sucks, we know. But look at the program’s last two seasons in non-conference play, which included 18 total wins. Losses to Tulsa, Houston and SMU in 2012-13 and Longwood last season. Despite easy non-conference slates then, they still lost games to beatable teams. Their progress to this point is purely just a decent step in the right direction.
The development of talent is also an obvious contributor to TCU’s early success. Karviar Shepherd going from highly-touted freshman to dependable sophomore (a team-leading 7.1 rebounds per game, with 14 points and nine rebounds against Ole Miss) has helped. Senior Amric Fields’ staying dependable despite his stats dropping has set an Unselfish tone. Nine players are averaging at least 10 minutes per game.
As the sentences above have shown, TCU has become all about depth. Anderson paces the team — he also leads TCU with 4.6 assists per game — but behind him are a group of players who seem to do whatever’s asked of them.
Is anyone expecting Johnson and his team to challenge Kansas for Big 12 supremacy? Nah. But for a team that has only been to seven NCAA Tournaments in their history, the last coming in 1998, finding their way onto the NCAA Tournament bubble would be extensive progress.
Find David on Twitter at @David_Harten.
Scott Woodward could’ve taken the easy way out last season.
As Washington slogged toward a third straight season without an NCAA Tournament appearance, the Huskies’ athletic director could’ve listened to some of the fanbase and axed long-time head coach Lorenzo Romar. Washington has the type of college basketball history where a drought like that isn’t taken lightly.
No one would’ve blamed him. The Huskies had gone 35-31 in the last two seasons under Romar, who is now in his 13th season as head coach in Seattle. Also, in a stacked 2013-14 year for the Pac-12 in which the conference sent six teams to the tournament, UDub failed to be one of them. In fairness, that run includes a Pac-12 regular season championship in 2011-12 — but came in a weak season for the conference (Colorado and California were the Pac-12’s lone bids to the Dance) and ended in an NIT bid.
But in the microwave society of major college athletics, Woodward took a refreshing approach and waited. This season, to this point, Washington is reaping the benefits of letting things play out. This was never more apparent that on Saturday night when the Huskies, ranked no. 16 in the nation, took down no. 15 Oklahoma in Las Vegas, their second win over a ranked team so far this season. Washington is now 10-0.
In the past two seasons combined, Romar’s team combined for a grand total of …..zero victories over ranked opponents.
Late last season, Woodward reinforced his faith in Romar, telling the media he was the “right man for the job.”
Some could — and probably will — argue that the reasons for keeping Romar are partially tied to his 10-year contract that is currently paying him $1.7 million per season. That’s fair. But given the Huskies’ start to the 2014-15 season, it could easily be rebuked.
Looking at the roster the Huskies currently have, it’s a classic peek into what waiting can do for a program. There’s a steady mix of both immediate impact players (Fresno State transfer Robert Upshaw and sophomore dynamo Nigel Williams-Goss) and developmental projects, as well as long-time roster stalwarts, coming to fruition (Shawn Kemp Jr., Andrew Andrews and Mike Anderson). They’ve been able to minimize the impact of any transfers (none of note in the last three seasons) and attrition to the NBA, losing both Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten to the league following the 2011-12 season.
The Huskies are currently 12th-best in the country on the glass, averaging 41.9 rebounds per game, despite having just four players 6-foot-9 or taller on their roster. And even when they don’t get a ton of boards, they’ve been able to adjust to another style of play and win, beating then-no. 13 San Diego State 49-36 while getting outrebounded 42-36.
Add in a win over a UTEP team that pushed Arizona to the brink on Friday night, and it’s been a solid start for Washington, and one of the more surprising starts in college basketball.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten.
In the 2012-13 season, Miami had arguably their best year in program history. With one of the oldest teams (the average age of the team hovered around 22 years old) in the nation under coach Jim Larranaga’s watch, the Hurricanes went 29-7, won both the ACC regular season and tournament championships and made it to the Sweet 16.
And to open that season, they lost to St. Leo in an exhibition game.
That’s a pretty important thing to remember when you examine what happened to the Hurricanes on Friday night. Behind awful shooting, The U suffered what is by all accounts the worst loss under Larranaga and one of the worst losses in program history, a 72-44 loss to Eastern Kentucky. Before Friday, EKU had beaten as many Top 25 teams as I have.
Against the Colonels, Miami allowed 14 threes (EKU hit 53.8 percent of them, 14-26, from three-point range) and shot 29.3 percent from the field themselves. They were out-rebounded 37-26 and made only 12 shots all night. As far as implosions go, the Hurricanes couldn’t do much worse than allowing a now-6-4 team to go on a 22-2 run in the second half while on the road.
Under Larranaga, Miami has become what Gonzaga seemed to be around the mid-2000s. They play to the level of their competition when you don’t see it coming. For every great win (at Florida, against Illinois) there are baffling losses (the aforementioned EKU stinker, and the home loss to Green Bay two games earlier).
Looking back at the 2012-13 season again, Miami didn’t stop with the ‘huh?’ losses when they went to the Diamondhead Classic and lost to Indiana State. Though that loss would later not be seen as all that bad, as the Sycamores were a solid team. But compared to how they finished the season, that defeat left some scratching their heads at the time.
They would also add losses at Wake Forest (who finished 13-18) and at home against 16-15 Georgia Tech in ACC play.
But that’s just how Miami is recently. And it’s really not that bad, considering that this is essentially the golden era of Hurricane basketball. They have depth, with 10 players averaging at least 10 minutes per game. Five players are averaging at least seven points per game and as a team, Miami is shooting 47.2 percent. The offensive funk that came Friday night probably won’t last.
The U will pull as many weird losses out of its hat as it will great wins. And while they’ll no doubt drop from their no. 18 national ranking out of the Top 25, Miami should still have a solid season as ACC play approaches. The wins over the Gators and Fightin’ Illini weren’t a fluke.
We only need to look back at a little history to see that.
Follow David Harten on Twitter at @David_Harten.
Last season, despite having the nation’s best scorer on their roster in Doug McDermott, one of Creighton’s best assets was that they spread the production among those on the roster. McDermott got the buckets to the tune of 26.7 points per game on 52.6 percent shooting, but five other players averaged at least six points per game while all five shot at least 42 percent from the field.
Austin Chatman, who has emerged — as expected — as the top offensive option for the Blue Jays in 2014-15, finished last year putting up 8.1 points per game. This season, Chatman is cranking out 13.3 points, 5.1 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game, hitting shots at a 40.4 percent clip.
Those numbers aren’t a bad thing. The following numbers, however, could be.
Chatman’s minutes per game have recently spiked. In Creighton’s last five contests, the senior from The Colony, Texas, is clocking 44 minutes per game and hasn’t played less than 35. In Creighton’s last game, a 91-88 win over South Dakota in double overtime, Chatman played 47 of a possible 50 minutes. It’s the second time he’s played at least 40 minutes, along with the Blue Jays’ 57-47 win over Middle Tennessee State, where he played the entire game. Against Ole Miss, Chatman played 39 minutes.
If Creighton wants to compete in the Big East in their second season in the conference, they’ll want to save Chatman’s legs for conference play. In these past five games, Creighton is 3-2 — after starting the season 5-0 with a win over a ranked opponent — with Chatman getting way too much burn.
Add all that in with the fact that Chatman leads the Blue Jays in assists and is second by a tenth of a percentage point in rebounding, you’ll see he’s doing it all. A high amount of minutes along with a high percentage of stats this early? Not good. In a 65-63 victory over then-no. 18 Oklahoma on Nov. 19, Chatman went for 17 points, 11 rebounds and 6 assists in 38 minutes. Too much run, too early (though it could be argued that a win like that will look too good on the Blue Jays’ resume to hold anyone back, and I’d be inclined to agree). Four players already average 20-plus minutes for Creighton, so the problem isn’t others’ minutes going up. It’s Chatman’s minutes needing to be scaled back.
Then, you look at what else Creighton has on its roster. Outside of Isaiah Zierden’s 12.4 points per game, there isn’t a ton of help for Chatman to rely on in the scoring department. The middle of the roster is balanced with mid-level scoring, as five players average between 6.1 and 8.7 points per game, but a third scoring threat will have to emerge hitting a higher clip. Will Artino, who is third on the roster averaging just under nine points per game, should be the likely candidate to jump his production up, as he’s shot at least 62.3 percent in three previous seasons and leads the team in rebounds. Freshman Toby Hegner’s 7.5 ppg could also increase if he can find his shooting touch (he dropped in 11 against the Sooners).
It’s not a ridiculous task to find some offensive help for Chatman. Coach Greg McDermott is a solid coach who could really take advantage of his first post-Doug season if he raises the level of his team on offense.
None of this is to say Chatman can’t handle the workload. He clearly can. But the schedule will get harder for the Blue Jays as they welcome St. Mary’s to Omaha on Saturday and open conference play at Providence on Dec. 31. As the schedule gets tougher, so will Chatman’s ability to keep going 35-40 minutes per game. And if Creighton wants another trip to the NCAA Tournament, Greg McDermott might want to look one year into the past to see how they were successful with sharing the responsibilities, even if the numbers didn’t show it.
Love it, hate it, think you can do better? Find David on Twitter at @David_Harten.
1.) Bruce Pearl, Auburn – Duh, right? From the moment he stepped on campus, Pearl has started to stock the program with talent now (Cimmeon Bowers, K.C. Ross-Miller) and later (Kareem Canty, three four-star recruits in his 2015 recruiting class). He’s got the fire to coach again after the show-cause. This team could sneak into the NIT.
2.) Kim Anderson, Missouri – If not for Pearl, this would be my top hire. I know a few Mizzou alums, and I got the same response from all of them, “we’ve tried the big names like Haith and Mike Anderson. We’ve tried the hot assistants in Snyder. Why not try this?” Anderson is a Mizzou alum, a Missouri native and a long-time DII coach in the state with a national title to his name. Why not?
3.) Buzz Williams, Virginia Tech – Kudos to the Hokies for showing their commitment to their basketball program. Williams is already getting commitments himself (three four stars for 2015), it’s just going to take time for the program to develop. And this just won’t be the year, more than likely.
4.) Danny Manning, Wake Forest – I was skeptical about this hire. Then I thought about it. Manning isn’t too far removed from his playing days, and his name also endures with the older folks who know him from his “Danny and The Miracles” days at Kansas. If he can recruit, he’ll do fine.
5.) Wayne Tinkle, Oregon State – Tinkle is a Montana guy. Somehow, the Beavers’ brass got him to Corvallis. It doesn’t hurt that Tinkle locked up his prep star son, as well as his assistants’ kin, who is a great prep player himself. Time will tell of his enthusiasm translates to wins in the Pac-12.
6.) Steve Wojciechowski, Marquette – This is a solid match. Woj (I’m not spelling his name more than once unless required) loves basketball tradition coming from Duke. Marquette has a lot of that tradition stuff. If he can recruit, look out.
7.) Kelvin Sampson, Houston – We all forget, Sampson went to 13 NCAA Tournaments in his final 14 college coaching seasons before burying himself in a show-cause penalty at Indiana. He’s off to a good start with the Cougars getting Chicken Knowles to stick around and recruiting Devonta Pollard out of junior college.
8.) Donnie Tyndall, Tennessee – (DISCLAIMER: This is without including the NCAA investigation, it’s too early to factor it in) Tyndall has just won on the low major level of Morehead State — while finding and developing Kenneth Faried — and on the mid-major level at Southern Miss, where he maintained what Larry Eustachy left him. Now? He just has to do it on the high level stage.
9.) Orlando Antigua, South Florida – Antigua was able to recruit to Kentucky. Now, he has the Sun Dome to use, not Rupp Arena (which isn’t exactly a downgrade) and a major city like Tampa. If he can keep that recruiting going for USF, he’ll be fine in the AAC.
10.) Cuonzo Martin, California – Martin wasn’t appreciated in Knoxville. Still, in his one season with his players (two seasons cleaning up the mess left after Pearl was fired) he made the Sweet 16 after underachieving in the regular season. With Jabari Bird to build around, Martin could thrive in Berkeley.
HONORABLE MENTION: Ernie Kent, Washington State – Once upon a time, Kent rebuilt Oregon into a team that made seven postseason appearances in his 13 years in Eugene, including two Elite Eights. He’ll have to rebuild in Pullman the way he did with the Ducks.
Best Value For Their Contract – Sampson: It maxes out at a total of $4.5 million over five years. For a coach with his resume at a place like Houston, that’s a steal.
Best No One Is Talking About – Kent: As the afforementioned blurb stated, Kent has rebuilt before. He can do it again. And in the same region. Which means he’s familiar with everything around him.
Best, Considering the Talent on the Roster – Antigua: He has nine freshmen, redshirt freshman or sophomores on the roster. Add in two junior college transfers, and that’s 11 inexperienced players on the roster. Tyndall feels his pain, and is narrowly edged out here. He’ll have a tough road to travel as well.
Other notable coaching hires: Doc Sadler, Southern Miss; Jim Christian, Ohio; Bob Walsh, Maine; Frank Haith, Tulsa; Jason Gardner, IUPUI; Mike Dunlap, Loyola Marymount; Mike Rhoades, Rice; Heath Schroyer, Tennessee-Martin;Earl Grant, College of Charleston; Kevin Keatts, UNC-Wilmington; Scott Padgett, Samford; Mike Maker, Marist; Saul Phillips, Ohio; Tic Price, Lamar; Dan D’Antoni, Marshall.
We’re taking a look at some of the nations most popular college basketball conferences this season. In this installment, we take a look at the ACC, for seasons change and all that.
-Montrezl Harrell, F, Jr., Louisville
-Jahlil Okafor, F, Fr., Duke
-London Perrantes, Soph., G, Virginia
-Olivier Hanlan, Jr., G, Boston College
Breakdown – Harrell, Okafor and Paige and mortal locks for most first-teams. It’s not even close, really. The last two spots? I really looked at Perrantes and how quickly he grew up as a freshman under Tony Bennett. I think he’ll be key in how well the Cavaliers do after losing Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Hanlan will be asked to do pretty much everything in Jim Christian’s first season.
Predicting The Finish
Duke – Jahlil Okafor, Justise Winslow and Tyus Jones headline an amazing recruiting class. Rasheed Suliamon should be doing Rasheed Suliamon things. It’s Duke. It’s Mike Krzyzewski. It’s another season.
North Carolina – Outside of the afforementioned Meeks and Paige, look for J.P. Tokoto to emerge this year. The real winner here though, is Meeks’ waistline.
Louisville – New team on the block with an All-American candidate in Harrell. But the real focus is on Terry Rozier, who has been viewed as a possible first-rounder in the 2015 NBA Draft if he lives up to his potential.
Virginia – The scary thing is, this Virginia team might be as good as last year’s and the lost Joe Harris and Akil Mitchell. Perrantes plays beyond his year and Malcolm Brogdon has the skills to be the ACC’s top scorer.
Syracuse – With Dejuan Coleman coming back, this team will have their best chance at having a solid low-block presence. Rakeem Christmas should have a great senior season, but watch for yet another Joseph on Jim Boeheim’s roster: Kaleb.
Pittsburgh – Durand Johnson could be a darkhorse for ACC Player of the Year and will pace a pretty solid team for Jamie Dixon. Look for Vanderbilt transfer Sheldon Jeter to string together a lot of good performances.
North Carolina State – What do you do when you lose your entire offensive gameplan? No, Mark Gottfried didn’t shred it on accident or anything. T.J. Warren just left for the NBA. Cat Barber and even Desmond Lee could pace this squad.
Sleeper Team – Virginia Tech – Forgive me, but there’s just something about Buzz Williams. The man finds way to make something out of nothing. He’ll get a lot out of Seth Allen and somehow, he’ll find a way to make this a middle-of-the-pack team.
The Rest….because there’s only so much you can saw about sub-par teams
Kennedy Meeks, Soph., F, North Carolina – Not only will Meeks, who averaged 7.6 points and 6.1 rebounds, benefit from Paige being his point guard for another season, but he also lost around 50 pounds, which could greatly help his conditioning on the court. He’s not exactly a ‘sleeper’ with all stats like that and the McDonald’s All-American label, but I think you could see a double-double of 17-12 per out of him if all the hype is true.
Most Likely To….upset Duke in Cameron Indoor Stadium this season
Calling it an upset, that eliminates the top teams. That said, I’m going with Wake Forest on March 4. Danny Manning has like magic or something in his coaching acumen. He pulled a few good wins in his time in Tulsa. He may have to rip all the tread off Codi Miller-McIntyre’s figurative tires to get it, but for some reason, I see Wake pulling the shocker at the end of the season. Maybe it’s because it’s 2 a.m. and I decided to finish this up now.
We’re profiling the most popular conferences in Division I until we decide that the conference isn’t popular, at which point we might stop, or we might keep going into the one that’ll get less hits. This segment? We take on the conference that’s as bad at basketball as it is good at football: The SEC.
That’s not like it’s the well actually it is the conference’s fault. It’s elite at the top with Kentucky and Florida, and then the rest. The rest being average to bad. Below we’re going to take a look at it. It won’t hurt, we promise.
-Aaron Harrison, G, Soph., Kentucky
-Michael Frazier II, G, Sr., Florida
-Jordan Mickey, F, Soph., LSU
-Bobby Portis, F, Soph., Arkansas
-Karl-Anthony Towns, F, Fr., Kentucky
It’s not like we couldn’t put Kentucky’s starting five here. We could’ve. We almost did. I mean, seriously, we might’ve typed it out. But instead, we opted to look into the conference. Jordan Mickey’s gonna save Johnny Jones from getting fired. That and the fact that LSU is gonna be pretty good this season. Harrison has improved and Towns is just a stud. Portis will pace Arkansas and Frazier is the best shooter in the league.
Predicting the Finish
1.) Kentucky – All that talent returning. All that talent coming to campus. Duh.
2.) Florida – Losing Chris Walker for two regular season games due to suspension is rough. Billy Donovan lost four starters of last season’s squad and Frazier will asked to lead the team.
3.) LSU – This is the moment Johnny Jones has been waiting for. The conference is just bad enough for the Tigers to be good again. But honestly, Jordan Mickey will emerge, Jarell Martin may have an all-SEC year and Josh Gray averaged eleventy-billion points in junior college. That should help.
4.) Arkansas – Finally, Razorback fans will stop thinking Mike Anderson is just keeping the seat warm for Nolan Richardson. Bobby Portis can really play, Alandise Harris does a lot for a guy his size and you’ll probably see a lot more from Moses Kingsley than you expect.
Sleeper Team – 5.) Tennessee – This is all going to be dependent on how the Vols respond to Donnie Tyndall. The roster has been turned over to the point that it’s meth-user-side-by-side-picture unrecognizable with nine new players. I still see it. That pudgy little man works magic on the bench.
6.) Auburn – It’s going to happen folks. Don’t fight it. Don’t make it weird. Bruce Pearl is going to stare into your eyes and make sweet, sweet love on that court with a laundry list of new guys like Antoine Mason, Cimmeon Bowers and K.C. Ross-Miller. Difference is that he’s been in this league before, so he knows how to please.
7.) Georgia – I’m a big believer in continuity. Mark Fox’s team has that. The teams below his on this list don’t, really. Neither does a divorced family. The Bulldogs will be better than a divorced family. They return 3 of their top 4 scorers from a team that won 20 games.
8.) Missouri – Kim Anderson, a Missouri native and former Tiger player, is up from Central Missouri, where he won a Division II title last season, to take the flagship job in his state. This is like when that prick from college joined a fraternity for the “career connections,” which you never thought would happen. Then 15 years later you see him and he’s the CFO of a huge company because the guy who hired him was also in that frat. Also, They lost Jordan Clarkson, Jabari Brown and Earnest Ross.
9.) Vanderbilt – You know what? I like Kevin Stallings. Sure, he didn’t even try to recruit after John Jenkins, Festus Ezeli, Brad Tinsley and Jeff Taylor left. He’s still the guy who made the Commodores pretty good at basketball in the last decade. Damian Jones is basically all the scoring that returns, but Stallings has to get this right. His job is probably on the line.
10.) Texas A&M – First of all, there are 18 dudes on the Aggies’ roster, that’s like a Tom Osborne-era number of walk-ons in college basketball terms. But Alex Caruso might be the best point guard outside of Lexington in the conference, if Jalen Jones gets eligible, he’ll make an impact and Alex Robinson was a coup for coach Billy Kennedy.
11.) Ole Miss – What’s life like in Oxford after Marshall Henderson has left? I don’t want to find out, actually. But nonetheless, Andy Kennedy and City Grocery both press on, unsure of what they’ll do with his Saturday nights. M.J. Rhett could be the best player on the Rebels’ team with only one year of eligibility remaining as a graduate transfer.
12.) Alabama – Can Anthony Grant save his job with a bunch of transfers? If he can, he’ll be buying Ricky Tarrant, Michael Kessens and Christophe Varidel some Archibald’s all season long.
13.) Mississippi State – I wanted to rate you higher, Rick Ray. I wanted too. But you’ve lost your best player for the first part of the season to injury, the team is still hella young and there wasn’t enough promise to conclude a major jump in 2014-15. I didn’t order the Code Red.
14.) South Carolina – Frank Martin has reason to be angry. And if he doesn’t, he makes those reasons up. Sindarius Thornwell can play. The end.
Alex Caruso, G, Jr. Texas A&M – Dude can pass and most people know that. But he’s played for a program that’s gotten little pub in his time there. This season could be different, whether the Aggies are good or not. Leaning towards not, really.
Most Likely To….be a coach that gets fired midseason
Anthony Grant, Alabama – There are three true candidates here. Grant is just the one that is the most obvious. He’s tanked in recent seasons, his one recruit in 2012 is no longer on the team and he’s mortgaged his recent future in Tuscaloosa on a gaggle of transfers and Justin Coleman. If it doesn’t work, HE GONE.