Friday, September 30, 2005

Top Players at Each Position: Center


1. Shelden Williams, Duke
2. Eric Williams, Wake Forest
3. Josh Boone, Connecticut
4. Nick Fazekas, Nevada
5. Paul Davis, Michigan State
6. Glen Davis, LSU
7. Terence Dials, Ohio State
8. LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas
9. Matt Haryasz, Stanford
10. Yemi Nicholson, Denver
11. Alex Loughton, Old Dominion
12. DJ White, Indiana
13. Kevin Bookout, Oklahoma
14. Joseph Jones, Texas A&M
15. James Augustine, Illinois
16. Pops Mensah-Bonsu, George Washington
17. Kevin Pittsnogle, West Virginia
18. Jermareo Davidson, Alabama
19. Christian Maraker, Pacific
20. Rod Benson, California

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Top Players at Each Position: Small Forward


1. Adam Morrison, Gonzaga
2. Hassan Adams, Arizona
3. Rudy Gay, Connecticut
4. Alando Tucker, Wisconsin
5. Jared Dudley, Boston College
6. Maurice Ager, Michigan State
7. P.J. Tucker, Texas
8. Brandon Bowman, Georgetown
9. Nik Caner-Medley, Maryland
10. Vincent Grier, Minnesota
11. Rodney Carney, Memphis
12. Joah Tucker, Wisconsin-Milwaukee
13. Bobby Jones, Washington
14. Richard Roby, Colorado
15. Brandon Winters, Davidson
16. Malik Hairston, Oregon
17. Nick Dewitz, Oregon State
18. C.J. Anderson, Manhattan
19. Robert Vaden, Indiana
20. Corey Brewer, Florida

Top Players at Each Position: Power Forward


1. Craig Smith, Boston College
2. Taj Gray, Oklahoma
3. Paul Millsap, Louisiana Tech
4. Leon Powe, California
5. Curtis Withers, Charlotte
6. Curtis Sumpter, Villanova
7. Jeff Green, Georgetown
8. Caleb Green, Oral Roberts
9. Eric Hicks, Cincinnati
10. Steven Smith, La Salle
11. Carl Landry, Purdue
12. Chuck Davis, Alabama
13. Greg Brunner, Iowa
14. Juan Palacios, Louisville
15. Brad Buckman, Texas
16. Ivan Almonte, Florida International
17. Marcus Slaughter, San Diego State
18. J.P. Batista, Gonzaga
19. Lamont Hamilton, St. John's
20. Marcellus Sommerville, Bradley

Top Players at Each Position: Shooting Guard


1. JJ Redick, Duke
2. Ronnie Brewer, Arkansas
3. Allan Ray, Villanova
4. Brandon Roy, Washington
5. JamesOn Curry, Oklahoma State
6. Dan Grunfeld, Stanford
7. Guillermo Diaz, Miami
8. Randy Foye, Villanova
9. Nate Funk, Creighton
10. Shannon Brown, Michigan State
11. Ben Jacobson, Northern Iowa
12. Loren Stokes, Hofstra
13. Chris McCray, Maryland
14. Adam Haluska, Iowa
15. Robert Hite, Miami
16. Mike Gansey, West Virginia
17. Martin Zeno, Texas Tech
18. Ken Tutt, Oral Roberts
19. Aaron Bruce, Baylor
20. Anthony Winchester, Western Kentucky

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Impact Transfers


Transfers are often overlooked when analyzing a team's prospects for the upcoming season. Everyone notices the new freshman recruits, but some people forget about the transfers that had to sit out a season. However, transfers often have more of an immediate impact than freshmen as a result of the experience that they have. This season, there is an abundance of talented transfers ready to make people remember them.

Mohamed Abukar, C, San Diego State (from Florida)- Gives Aztecs inside force next to Marcus Slaughter.
De'Angelo Alexander, SG, Charlotte (from Oklahoma)- Will be a scorer from the wing for the 49ers.
Ryan Appleby, G, Washington (from Florida)- Provides shooting and could play the point for the Huskies.
Marcus Arnold, F, Illinois (from Illinois State)- Could start down low next to James Augustine.
Derrick Byars, G/F, Vanderbilt (from Virginia)- Once eligible, he will start on the wing for the Commodores.
Nate Carter, SF, Oklahoma (from UC-Riverside)- Has a chance to have a big impact on the wing.
Marco Killingsworth, PF, Indiana (from Auburn)- Could be the Big Ten Newcomer of the Year.
Regis Koundija, F, George Washington (from LSU)- Will give Colonials good frontcourt depth.
Ron Lewis, G, Ohio State (from Bowling Green)- Scoring guard could step into the starting lineup.
Lewis Monroe, G, Indiana (from Auburn)- Might start at the point for the Hoosiers.
David Padgett, C, Louisville (from Kansas)- When healthy, he has All-America talent.
Rodrick Stewart, G, Kansas (from USC)- The athletic wing will give good scoring and defense off the bench.
Marcus White, PF, Purdue (from Connecticut)- Once eligible, he will provide rebounding and defense inside.
Omar Wilkes, G, California (from Kansas)- He will add perimeter scoring to the Golden Bears.

Junior College Transfers

Jamaal Brown, PG, Oklahoma State- Will see immediate playing time in the backcourt.
Sylvester Mayes, PG, Ohio State- Should get extensive minutes for the Buckeyes at guard.
Chris Walker, PG, Oklahoma- Natural point guard could end up starting by the time the season ends.
Tarrance Crump, PG, Purdue- Could start from day one.
Parrish Brown, G, Maryland- Could end up replacing John Gilchrist at the point.
Jerel Allen, G, Florida State- Big-time scoring guard will give the backcourt a serious lift.
Rekalin Sims, PF, Kentucky- Might start right away for Tubby Smith.
Mario Boggan, PF, Oklahoma State- Another stud newcomer for the Cowboys could start.
Ivan Johnson, PF, Oregon- Last-minute addition will provide balance for the Ducks.
B.J. Walker, PF, Nebraska- Will give Cornhuskers athleticism, scoring, and rebounding.

Top Players at Each Position: Point Guard


1. Dee Brown, Illinois
2. Daniel Gibson, Texas
3. Curtis Stinson, Iowa State
4. Marcus Williams, Connecticut
5. Chris Hernandez, Stanford
6. Mardy Collins, Temple
7. Justin Gray, Wake Forest
8. Darius Washington, Memphis
9. Rajon Rondo, Kentucky
10. Gerry McNamara, Syracuse
11. Ronald Steele, Alabama
12. Jeff Horner, Iowa
13. Terrell Everett, Oklahoma
14. Jarrius Jackson, Texas Tech
15. Taquan Dean, Louisville
16. Aaron Brooks, Oregon
17. Jordan Farmar, UCLA
18. Carl Krauser, Pitt
19. Darryl Hill, St. John's
20. Mustafa Shakur, Arizona

Forty Impact Freshmen


Ever since Carmelo Anthony led Syracuse to a National Championship in 2003, every freshman has looked to "Carmelo-ize" a team or program. This season's crop of newcomers is loaded with players that are going to have step in immediately and have an impact. It is likely, however, that someone not on this list is going to have a huge effect on his new team. That's just how it is; you can't predict what freshmen are going to do.

Josh McRoberts, PF, Duke- Should start right away next to Shelden Williams down low.
Greg Paulus, PG, Duke- If Sean Dockery falters, he gets to run the show.
Tyler Hansbrough, C, North Carolina- Go-to-guy down low for the Tar Heels
Bobby Frasor/Danny Green/Marcus Ginyard, G/F, North Carolina- Two of these three are going to have to step up.
Brandon Costner, PF, North Carolina State- Could give Wolfpack a true low-post presence.
Lewis Clinch, SG, Georgia Tech- Will need to be a big-time scorer for the Yellow Jackets.
Harvey Hale, G, Wake Forest- Has to replace Chris Paul in the backcourt.
Marquise Gray, PF, Michigan State- Frontrunner to start next to Paul Davis down low.
Jon Krabbenhoft, G/F, Wisconsin- Could earn a starting spot for the depleted Badgers.
Ben Allen, C, Indiana- Will make an impact off the bench for the Hoosiers.
Shawn Taggart, PF, Iowa State- Needs to become a go-to-guy in the paint.
Mario Chalmers, PG, Kansas- Will start immediately at the lead guard position.
Brandon Rush/Micah Downs, G/F, Kansas- At least one of these two will start.
Julian Wright, F, Kansas- One of the best freshman in the country.
Byron Eaton, PG, Oklahoma State- Will develop into a great point guard by the end of the season.
Keith Brumbaugh, F, Oklahoma State- Scoring option in the frontcourt for the Cowboys.
A.J. Abrams, PG, Texas- Could see some minutes at the point behind Daniel Gibson.
Terry Martin, G, Texas Tech- Replacement for Ronald Ross could be a nice scorer for the Red Raiders.
Eric Davendorf, G, Syracuse- Should start immediately next to Gerry McNamara.
Devan Downey, PG, Cincinnati- If Jihad Muhammed continues to be erratic, he will start.
Craig Austrie/Robert Garrison, PG, Connecticut- Have to step up enormously until Marcus Williams returns.
Terrence Williams, SF, Louisville- Could start on the wing for Rick Pitino and the Cardinals.
Luke Zeller, C, Notre Dame- Will be a nice addition in the paint for the Irish.
Shawne Williams, F, Memphis- Future NBA pick will team with Rodney Carney at forward.
Antonio Anderson/Chris Douglas-Roberts, SG, Memphis- Both should be solid scorers on the wing.
Marcus Williams, SF, Arizona- Could see some minutes, pushing Hassan Adams to PF.
J.P. Prince, PG, Arizona- Will see minutes behind Mustafa Shakur.
Jordan Wilkes, C, Cal- Great big man recruit for the Golden Bears.
Jon Brockman, PF, Washington- Physical recruit will see extensive time.
Tasmin Mitchell, SF, LSU- My pick for national freshman of the year could have a huge impact on the SEC.
Magnum Rolle, PF, LSU- Should start along with Mitchell and last year's super freshman Glen Davis.
Richard Hendrix, PF, Alabama- Will come off the bench to make an impact.
Walter Hodge/Derwin Kitchen, G, Florida- Both of them will have to becomes solid players off the bench.
Mike Mercer, PG, Georgia- Will be an underrated point guard in the SEC.
Jared Carter, C, Kentucky- If Randolph Morris doesn't come back immediately, he could start.
Jeremy Pargo, G, Gonzaga- Will be one of the best freshmen on the west coast.
Dominic James, PG, Marquette- Travis Diener's replacement.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Conference Rankings


1. Big East
2. ACC
3. Big Ten
4. Big Twelve
5. Pac-10
6. SEC
7. Atlantic-10
8. Conference USA
9. Missouri Valley
10. Colonial
11. Mountain West
12. West Coast
13. WAC
14. Mid-American
15. Big West
16. Sun Belt
17. Horizon
18. America East
19. Mid-Continent
20. Southern
21. MAAC
22. Patriot
23. Ohio Valley
24. Ivy
25. Big Sky
26. Atlantic Sun
27. Northeast
28. Big South
29. Southland
30. MEAC
31. SWAC

Best Frontcourts


In order to win a championship, everyone thinks guard play is necessary. That is true, but a team won't win without a solid frontcourt. If you have a post player that will get you a basket with the clock winding down, it gives you an advantage over smaller, guard-laden clubs. Rebounding and defensive stops down low will come easier if you have a good group of players in the paint. The best backcourts in the country will falter early in March without a solid duo or trio on the baseline. Who has the best frontcourts headed into the season? Starters in italics

Boston College (Craig Smith, Jared Dudley, Sean Williams*, Akida McLain, Evan Neisler): Heading into their inaugural season in the ACC, the Eagles have the frontcourt to compete for a league title. Smith is the best power forward in the country. He is extremely strong, and bulls his way to buckets everytime he gets the ball. Dudley is one of the more underrated players in the conference. He is one of the best forwards in the nation, but doesn't get the accolades. Dudley always finds ways to score. Williams is expected to become eligible as early as December. If he returns, he gives BC an outstanding shot blocker. McLain and Neisler will provide depth and will have to play more than expected until Williams comes back.

Duke (Shelden Williams, Josh McRoberts, Lee Melchionni, Eric Boateng): As the favorite to win the national championship, the Blue Devils are going to need excellent production to a frontcourt that includes two freshmen. Williams is the best post player in the country,offensively and defensively. He gets a double double every time out, and could be the best shot blocker in the nation. McRoberts is a candidate for national freshman of the year. He is an inside-outside threat. Melchionni stepped up in conference play a year ago, giving the Blue Devils a frontcourt player that could hit the three consistently. Freshman Boateng will give Williams a few minutes of rest each game, something he didn't get a year ago.

Maryland (Nik Caner-Medley, Travis Garrison, Ekene Ibekwe, James Gist, Will Bowers): The underachieving Terrapins are going to need more production from the post players than they received last year if they want to make it back to the NCAA Tournament. Caner-Medley is not a problem, however. He is an excellent scorer that can shoot the jumper and post up smaller forwards. Garrison stepped his game up in the NIT, and needs to continue that this season. Ibekwe is extremely athletic that needs to improve his consistency in order to utilize his full potential. Gist is an extraordinary athlete that makes the most of his minutes off the bench.

George Washington (Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Mike Hall, Omar Williams, Regis Koundija, Alex Kireev): When Mensah-Bonsu and Hall withdrew their names from the NBA Draft, the Colonials immediately became a Top 20 team. Their frontcourt is versatile and athletic. Mensah-Bonsu is athletic and can block shots with the best of them. He needs to improve his low-post game if he is going to become a go-to-guy. Hall is one of the most underrated players in the country, and might be the best all-around player GW has. He lead the Colonials in rebounding. Williams produces in every aspect of the game and can play multiple positions. LSU transfer Koundija will be eligible once the first semester ends and will provide another body up front.

Connecticut (Rudy Gay, Josh Boone, Hilton Armstrong, Ed Nelson, Jeff Adrien, Marcus Johnson): No matter what happens with their point guard situation, the Huskies' frontcourt will carry them throughout the season. Gay may be the best player in the country, and is the consensus #1 pick whenever he decides to enter the NBA Draft. However, he needs to become assertive and utilize his talent advantage more. Boone is another All-American candidate. He is a great rebounder and one of the best shot-blockers in the nation. He, like Gay, needs to become more aggressive offensively. Armstrong will step into Charlie Villanueva's vacated power forward position. He is a good shot blocker and has shown flashes on offense. Nelson played well in the NCAA Tournament and will get extensive minutes this season. Adrien and Johnson are talented freshmen that could have important roles.

Georgetown (Brandon Bowman, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert): This is one of the more underrated frontcourts in the nation. Bowman thought about entering the NBA Draft, but pulled his name out. He is very athletic and can do a variety of things on the basketball court. Green was the co-Big East Rookie of the Year (with Rudy Gay), and is versatile. He can score in the post, but can also step out and shoot the three (40 percent from beyond the arc). Hibbert is a 7-2 shot blocker that needs to improve his offensive game. His role will expand this season.

Villanova (Curtis Sumpter, Jason Fraser, Will Sheridan): Usually overshadowed by their outstanding backcourt, the Wildcats' frontcourt is also very good, when healthy. Sumpter is a match-up nightmare for opponents, because of shooting ability and athleticism. He should be ready after undergoing surgery in April. Fraser's career has been filled with injuries. When is he able to go all out, he can be one of the best post players in the Big East. Will Sheridan has filled in admirably in the past when one of the starters goes down.

Louisville (Juan Palacios, David Padgett, Brian Johnson, Terrence Williams): This is one of the most talented frontcourts in the country. We will have to see if that talent results in wins, though. Palacios was underrated last season, as a result of playing forward opposite first round pick Francisco Garcia. He is athletic and can play any position on the floor. He needs to work on his hands, though. Padgett could have a huge impact on the Big East--when he returns from a foot injury that will sideline him for up to 8 weeks. The transfer from Kansas can shoot the ball from the perimeter as well as score inside. Johnson returns from an injury that forced him to sit out a season ago. Freshman Williams could have an impact on the wing.

Indiana (DJ White, Marco Killingsworth, Robert Vaden, Ben Allen, Cem Dinc): No frontcourt in the country will be helped more by newcomers than the Hoosiers'. White was the Big Ten freshman of the year last season, and should improve in leaps and bounds this year. Killingsworth could be best newcomer in the Big Ten. The Auburn transfer is a beast in the paint and will form a dominant inside tandem with White. Vaden is versatile but can now play on the wing, where is he most comfortable. Allen comes from Australia and is expected to make an impact off the bench. Dinc is a mystery. Not many people in the states have seen him play. The 6-10, 245 lb. German supposedly is going to be a match-up nightmare on the wing. The jury is still out on him.

Texas (PJ Tucker, Brad Buckman, LaMarcus Aldridge, Dion Dowell, Mike Williams): With the return of Tucker and Aldridge, the Longhorns may have the best frontcourt in the country (along with UConn). Tucker sat out the last 14 games of last season due to academics. He uses his strength to post up weaker small forwards and could be an all-American this season. Aldridge was lost after 16 games due to a hip injury. He may be the best center in the Big 12. Buckman is strong and tough to stop in the post. He averaged 13 points and 8 boards per game a year ago. Williams and Dowell should provide solid depth.

Oklahoma (Taj Gray, Kevin Bookout, Nate Carter, Taylor Griffin, Longar Longar): The Sooners' frontcourt is exactly what Kelvin Sampson likes, and it could carry them a long way in March. Bookout and Gray may be the best post duo in the nation. Gray is a favorite for the Big 12 Player of the Year after using his athleticism to dominate on both ends of the court. He runs the floor better than most of his opponents, as well. Bookout is the leader of the team and more of a back to the basket player than Gray. He shot nearly 60 percent from the floor last season. His hands and size make him tough to stop. Carter is a transfer from UC Riverside and is expected to have an immediate impact. Griffin and Longar are quality options off the bench.

Memphis (Rodney Carney, Joey Dorsey, Shawne Williams, Waki Williams, Kareem Cooper): This is one of the most talented frontcourts in the country; hopefully it can live up to its potential. Carney is the best athlete in the nation. He can score in a variety of ways, but is somewhat incosistent. Shawne Williams is going to be one of the best freshman in the country. He and Carney are both future NBA players and will be extremely difficult to deal with. Dorsey is an excellent rebounder but will need to embrace his expanded role this season. Waki Williams played well a year ago, while Cooper should have an impact off the bench.

Washington (Bobby Jones, Mike Jensen, Jamaal Williams, Jon Brockman): The Huskies don't have a dominant presence or a go-to-guy down low, but their quarter of forwards matches up with anyone in the country. Jones is versatile and can defend any position on the floor. He also shot 51 percent from three-point range. Jensen's minutes decreased with the emergence of Williams, but he is still valuable. He plays mostly on the perimeter offensively. Williams is their best inside option, despite being only 6-5. He averaged 13 points per game in the NCAA Tournament. Brockman is a freshman of the year candidate, both nationally and within the Pac-10. He is a physical inside scorer.

California (Leon Powe, Rod Benson, DeVon Hardin, Marquise Kately, Jordan Wilkes, Eric Vierneisel): An underrated frontcourt last season, the Golden Bears will now have one of the best in the country with the return of Powe. Powe was the Pac-10 freshman of the year two years ago, but sat out last season due to injury. He is one of the best forwards in the country. Benson was the leading scorer and rebounder for Cal and did a decent job replacing Powe. If he improves his defense, he will form a great post duo with Powe. Kately is an athletic wing that can provide scoring. Hardin and Wilkes will get plenty of minutes off the bench. Vierneisel is a great shooter and will play because of that.

Alabama (Chuck Davis, Jermareo Davidson, Richard Hendrix, Evan Brock): Even without the SEC's leading scorer in Kennedy Winston, the Tide's frontline should be the best in the SEC. Davis is athletic and is sometimes dominating when he gets the ball down low. He has a variety of low-post moves and can step out and hit the mid-range jumper. Davidson is a great rebounder and shot blocker who has improved his offensive game. Hendrix would have a chance to be the National Freshman of the Year if not for the two studs in front of him in the rotation. He will definitely have an impact, though. Brock is long and is solid around the basket.

Gonzaga (Adam Morrison, J.P. Batista, Sean Mallon, Josh Heytvelt, Mamery Diallo): Ronny Turiaf was the WCC player of the year last season, but he won't be missed tremendously with this frontcourt ready to take the floor. Morrison is the best small forward in the country and is a top candidate for the National Player of the Year award. He is tough to guard and is an unbelievable scorer. Batista stepped up in conference play and became a legitimate low-post option. Mallon started for the first half of the season before losing his job. He is a good rebounder and will get some easy baskets down low. Heytvelt could push Mallon for a starting job at some point during the season.

Other solid frontcourts: Cincinnati, North Carolina State, Iowa, Arizona, LSU, Florida

Monday, September 19, 2005

Best Backcourts


The most integral part of a team is their backcourt. In order to be a threat to win the national championship, a good perimeter group is necessary. Without superior guard play, you can kiss a Final Four appearance goodbye. A team can have the best forwards in the country, but if they don't have a perimeter that can knock down shots and handle the ball, they are ripe for an upset in the early rounds. Who has the best backcourts in the country? Starters in italics

Duke (Sean Dockery, Greg Paulus, DeMarcus Nelson, JJ Redick): The preseason favorite to win the national title has very solid perimeter play. Redick is the premier shooting guard in the country. He can carry the Blue Devils. Dockery is a defensive pest, while Nelson plays bigger than his 6-3 size would indicate. Paulus was the top point guard recruit in the country, and can step in if Dockery fails to pick up some of the scoring slack due to the loss of Daniel Ewing.

Miami (Guillermo Diaz, Robert Hite, Anthony Harris, Eric Wilkins, Denis Clemente): Miami was on the bubble heading into the latter part of the season, but did not win a couple of key games down the stretch. Their backcourt is going to help them get to the Dance this season. Diaz is a high-flying scorer that can do it all on the offensive end. Hite gets somewhat overshadowed by Diaz, but was still fourth in the ACC in scoring. Harris starts at the point and is solid all-around. Clemente was a highly-touted point guard recruit.

Connecticut (Marcus Williams*, AJ Price*, Rashad Anderson, Denham Brown, Craig Austrie, Robert Garrison): The Huskies spot in this group hinges on the eligibility of Williams and Price, the only two Big East starting-caliber point guard on the team. Williams might be the best point guard in the country; he is certainly the best passer. Price sat out last season, but can score well and provide a breather for Williams. Anderson is an excellent, albeit streaky, shooter that can shoot the Huskies in or out of games. Brown split time with Anderson last season, and will do it again. Both averaged over ten points per game. If Williams and/or Price have to sit out, Austrie and Garrison will handle the point guard duties. Neither were highly regarded recruits.

Villanova (Mike Nardi, Allan Ray, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry): This is the best backcourt in the country and could remind some of Illinois' group from last season. Ray performed very well on the U-21 team during the summer, and could develop into one of the better scorers in the Big East. Foye is a threat to use his strength to drive to the lane or shoot the three. Nardi is a smart point guard that doesn't make many bad decisions. Lowry saw his minutes rise late in the season due to Nardi's injury and his own play. He averaged almost 14 points and 6 rebounds in the NCAA Tournament.

West Virginia (JD Collins, Mike Gansey, Patrick Beilein, Joe Herber, Darris Nichols): This is a deep group that made some new fans with their surprise run to the Elite Eight in the NCAA Tournament. Gansey scored in double figures in his last nine games, and is their go-to-guy on the perimeter. Beilein, the coach's son, is a good three point shooter but doesn't do much besides that. Herber isn't a big-time scorer, but he shoots the three well and can do a little bit of everything. Collins doesn't turn the ball over that much, and is a solid point guard that doesn't score very much. Nichols adds depth at the point.

Michigan State (Drew Neitzel, Shannon Brown, Maurice Ager): After last season's extremely deep team, the Spartans are far thinner, but potentially better. Brown and Ager form one of the best wing combinations in the nation. Ager is an underrated player that led the team in scoring a year ago. He also shoots 40 percent from beyond the arc. Brown is an athletic scorer that takes it to the basket well. Neitzel developed as the season went along. He is a good passer that will get the ball where it needs to be.

Iowa (Jeff Horner, Adam Haluska, Mike Henderson, Carlton Reed): If the Hawkeyes are going to be the Top 20 team that everyone expects them to be, the backcourt is going to lead them there. Horner is an excellent player that does well in all aspects of the game, as evidenced by his numbers a year ago (14 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.5 apg). Haluska is a good scorer that teams with Horner for a decent scoring tandem. Henderson doesn't do anything that jumps out at you, but he can score if needed and rebound well for his size. Reed provides depth off the bench.

Iowa State (Curtis Stinson, Will Blalock, Tasheed Carr): The Cyclones made a great run at the end of last season to make the Tournament, and the backcourt was the reason why. Stinson is one of the best all-around players in the country, and can put ISU on his back at the end of games. He and Blalock form the best 2-man backcourt in the country. Blalock is a good passer and takes some of the pressure off Stinson on offense. Carr is a strong wing that works mainly in the mid-range.

Texas Tech (Jarrius Jackson, Martin Zeno, Terry Martin): With the loss of Ronald Ross, the Red Raiders need to fill his shoes in the backcourt somehow. Jackson is a Wooden Award candidate. Not a pure point guard, he is a great scorer that can shoot the three at an outstanding clip of 46 percent. Zeno is a versatile wing that has a solid mid-range game. He reminds me a little of former Syracuse player Josh Pace. Martin was the best recruit Tech picked up. He will be asked to fill some of the void left by Ross.

Minnesota (Vincent Grier, Adam Boone, Maurice Hargrow, Rico Tucker): After a surprise 10-6 record in the Big Ten a year ago, the Golden Gophers should be better this season. The reason for the optimism is the return of two players that sat out last season, Boone and Hargrow. Boone received another year of eligibility after sitting out last season after surgery. He is a good passer and makes smart decisions with the ball. Hargrow sat out after transferring to Arkansas, then back to Minnesota. He is an explosive athlete and shut-down defender on the wing. Grier is an All-America candidate. He carried the Gophers last season and averaged 18 points per game. Grier is a great defender and an excellent finisher who can get by his defender anytime. The only downside to his game is that he has no long range jumpshot.

Michigan (Daniel Horton, Dion Harris, Lester Abram, Ronald Coleman, Kendric Price): The Wolverines lost 13 of their final 14 games last season, after being on the bubble prior to that. Some of that collapse can be attributed to the suspension of Horton. He only played in 13 games, but was their second leading scorer and leading assist man. Abram only played in six games a year ago, due to injury. He averaged 13 points per game two seasons ago. Dion Harris played the entire season, and was the leading scorer for Michigan. He put up over 19 points per game in the last eight contests last season. Coleman played well in the absence of Abram, scoring in double digits in four of the last five games.

UCLA (Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, Josh Shipp, Cedric Bozeman, Darren Collison): An all-freshman perimeter last season led the Bruins to an NCAA Tournament berth. Farmar is one of the best point guards in the nation, and should be even better in his sophomore year. He averaged over 13 points and 5 assists per game. Afflalo was an underrated freshman last season, using his mid-range game to put points on the board for UCLA. Shipp is a solid scorer and an excellent rebounder for his size, especially on the offensive end. Bozeman may be the most talented player in this group. He sat out last season because of injury, but was the starter two seasons ago. He should provide excellent depth this year.

Arizona (Mustafa Shakur, Chris Rodgers, Jawann McClellan, JP Prince): This choice may be based more on potential than on actual performance thus far. Shakur hasn't lived up to his expectations, but is still one of the better passers in the Pac-10. He is going have to step his game up this season. Rodgers is a very good defender, and can score at times. He is not much of a creator, though. NBA scouts seem to love McClellan, which is interesting considering he averaged less than 16 minutes per game last season. He is very athletic, and can do virtually everything on the court. He won't be eligible until January because of academics, however. The 6-7 Prince is a very highly-touted PG recruit that will add another dimension when he comes into the game.

Oregon (Aaron Brooks, Malik Hairston, Bryce Taylor): The Ducks were considered a bubble team in January; they then proceeded to lose 10 of their final 13 games. Don't expect the same with this group a year older. Brooks is an underrated point guard that averaged almost 15 points and 5 assists last season. He might be the best PG in the league. Hairston came in with loads of hoopla, and had a decent season. However, he didn't "Carmelo-ize" Oregon as promised. Overall, he is a solid all-around player, though. Taylor gets overshadowed by these two, but still had a good freshman season. If he gets more consistent, he will take the next step to being a very good college player.

Kentucky (Rajon Rondo, Patrick Sparks, Ramel Bradley, Joe Crawford, Ravi Moss): This is a very deep group of perimeter players that have not developed to their full potential yet. Rondo and Sparks are the best 2-man backcourt outside of Iowa State and Texas Tech. Rondo improved by leaps and bounds this summer, and might be the best point guard in the SEC this season. He was already an excellent defender, and has added some offense and shooting to his game. Sparks is a very good shooter and scorer. Bradley, Crawford, and Moss will fight it out for the starting spot on the other wing. Bradley is extremely quick and is more of a PG. Moss is a superb three point shooter and is better suited to come off the bench. That leaves Crawford, who started getting more minutes towards the end of the year. He is a good scorer and defender.

Stanford (Chris Hernandez, Dan Grunfeld, Tim Morris, Jason Haas, Fred Washington): This is a very underrated group of two stars and three extremely solid role players. Hernandez is a Wooden Award candidate. He isn't the most talented player, but he makes everyone else better and is very smart on the court. Hernandez is also an excellent shooter. Grunfeld missed the latter part of the season after getting injured. He was the leading scorer for the Cardinal at almost 18 per game, and is also a Wooden Award candidate. Morris wasn't eligible for the last 19 games of the season because of academics, but he is an explosive athlete that can score. Haas provides a solid backup for Hernandez. Washington is very physical and is a tremendous rebounder for his size.

Other solid backcourts: Vanderbilt, LSU (once Tack Minor becomes eligible), Cincinnati, Arkansas, Memphis, Gonzaga, Virginia Tech

Sunday, September 4, 2005

Brandon Rush to Kansas

Putting an end to one of the most long-running sagas of the summer, Brandon Rush committed to Kansas and was ruled eligible by the NCAA. With that addition, the Jayhawks become a team that is on the fringe of being in the Top 25. They have the most young talent in the country, with nine of their top ten players either freshman or sophomores. Rush rounded out a recruiting class that rivals the best in history. The four-man class included three McDonald's All-Americans and four Top 20 recruits. They also add Rodrick Stewart, an athletic transfer from USC. If all of the talent meshes and comes together, the Jayhawks could be a team to be reckoned with come March.

At the point, freshman Mario Chalmers should come in and start right away for Bill Self. He is a good scorer and can get into the lane with ease. Sophomore Russell Robinson got good minutes at the beginning of last season, but saw his playing time decrease as the year wore on. There were rumors of him transferring, but he decided to return to KU for another year. Senior Jeff Hawkins got Robinson's minutes at the end of the season. He shot nearly 50 percent from behind the arc.

On the two wings, four newcomers will get the minutes. Rush and Julian Wright will most likely start. Rush is a good scorer that can get to the basket using his athleticism. He has developed a solid mid-range game to complement his driving ability. Wright is the most versatile player on the roster. He can play any position the floor, and might do that sometime during his tenure at Kansas. Wright has the potential to be a match-up nightmare for opponents. Another McDonald's All-American, Micah Downs, will come off the bench on the wing. He is a very good shooter, but is known to have some attitude problems. Stewart, the USC transfer, is an athletic player who can dunk anything. He is a solid defender and will be excellent on the fast break.

Inside, four returning players will hold down the fort. Christian Moody, who Billy Packer said was "the best walk-on player" ever, will start at power forward. He is a hard worker and is a good passer. He will be the leader of the young team as the lone returning starter. CJ Giles will most likely start at center. He started five games last season. Giles is an excellent shot blocker and will be a defensive presence in the paint. Darnell Jackson and Sasha Kaun will back up the post players. Jackson started one game last year, and averaged only seven minutes per game. He is a hard worker and a good rebounder. Kaun started getting more minutes as the season went on, and developed into a good inside player. He can block shots and get some easy buckets in the post.

The Maui Invitational starts off the season for Kansas, and I wouldn't be surprised if they went 1-2 and finished in seventh place. They open with Arizona, which is always a tough game. If they lose, they get either Arkansas or UConn. The Jayhawks just aren't experienced enough to beat these teams on a consistent basis. Before Big 12 play, Kansas also plays Nevada, Cal, and Kentucky. A tough schedule gives them a limited time to get used to playing with each other, but gives them the experience of playing NCAA Tournament-caliber teams early.

The Jayhawks have enough talent to compete with any team in the country. If there aren't any chemistry problems as a result of the lack of enough minutes to go around, KU will be a work in progress in January but definitely prepared for the NCAA Tournament in March. I think Bill Self will have his team ready.