Thursday, August 16, 2007

Summer Thoughts and Observations, Vol. 2

With the start of practice still two months away, college basketball is still not at the front of most people's minds. However, the summer has not been without college hoops action and discussion. Opinions and predictions for next season are starting to form and high school ball was all the talk in July. With that in mind, I have decided to continue the column I began last summer, entitled “Rants and Ramblings.” However, I used the same title for my NBA Draft reaction article last month, so I’m going to change the title to the one seen at the top of this post. Every couple of weeks until the season starts, I will comment about the ongoings in the college basketball world. This edition discusses many of the things I noticed while perusing the rosters of every BCS-conference team last week, from potential line-up and roster problems to general conference patterns.

The first edition focused mainly on the Big Ten and the Big East; this one will focus on the SEC, Pac-10, Big 12, and ACC.

- There’s going to be a lot of scrambling for second place in the SEC after Tennessee. The Volunteers are the clear-cut number one team in the conference, but it is wide-open after that. There are up to four teams with a legit case for being No. 2 in the league, namely Mississippi State, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Alabama. The Bulldogs have one of the best guards in the country in Jamont Gordon, as well as a go-to post player in Charles Rhodes. Arkansas is very deep and can throw a variety of line-ups on the floor. Gary Ervin needs to show he can be consistent at the point, though. Kentucky is loaded on the perimeter, with returnees Joe Crawford and Ramel Bradley, as well as newcomer Alex Legion. If freshman Patrick Patterson can dominate the post, the Wildcats could be tough. Alabama was extremely disappointing last season, but it returns a terrific quartet in point guard Ronald Steele, wings Alonzo Gee and Mykal Riley, and big man Richard Hendrix. Don’t count out the two-time defending national champs, either. Florida has a terrific recruiting class and will be a tough out come February and March.

- Can either Auburn or Georgia make the leap in the SEC? Those are the two teams after the aforementioned group most likely to reach the postseason, but both could be either mediocre NIT teams or legitimate NCAA Tournament clubs. Auburn has plenty of experience and talent, both inside and outside, but the Tigers have not proven they are able to be a contender in the conference. Georgia was a bubble team at times last season, but faded slightly down the stretch. Takais Brown returns to anchor the inside, and Sundiata Gaines is a playmaker on the perimeter. The key could be Mike Mercer. He tore his ACL last season, and won’t be available for the start of the season. It will be interesting to see when he comes back and how effective he is.

- The Pac-10 is clearly the best conference in the country, with up to seven potentially Top-25 caliber teams. UCLA is a Final Four contender; Washington State will give them a run; Stanford and Oregon both are Sweet Sixteen-type teams; USC has plenty of talent, but they are relatively inexperienced; and Arizona and Washington are also in the running for the rankings. It should be a terrific race for conference tournament seeding this season.

- Don’t forget about California or Arizona State, either. While neither is looking like a Top 25 team for the upcoming season, they are both going to be extremely tough teams to play. The Golden Bears have one of the best frontcourt duos in the country in Ryan Anderson and DeVon Hardin. They also have Duke transfer Jamal Boykin and redshirt Jordan Wilkes up front. Arizona State will also be a potential surprise in the league. Jeff Pendergraph and Duke transfer Erik Boateng will anchor the inside, while Christian Polk and five-star recruit James Harden add plenty of firepower on the wings. They key for both teams will be point guard play, from Cal’s Jerome Randle and ASU’s Derek Glasser.

- Baylor is going to have a very underrated perimeter group. Curtis Jerrells is one of the best all-around guards in the conference and Aaron Bruce is a very good scorer. Henry Dugat also averaged double-figures in points, while the diminutive Demond Carter can also fill it up. Throw in big-time recruit Lacedarius Dunn and the Bears are absolutely stocked at the guards and on the wings. They are going to be difficult to match-up with, in terms of depth and talent in the backcourt.

- I think Kansas State could be primed for a disappointing season, despite the hype that they are receiving from various outlets. Sure, freshman Michael Beasley and redshirt freshman Bill Walker are phenomenal talents that can do plenty of things on the court and returnee David Hoskins is a very good forward, but I just think that the Wildcats have a lot of weaknesses. They essentially have two combo guards in Blake Young and Clent Stewart, the aforementioned forward trio, and undersized freshman forward Dominique Sutton. They likely won’t have consistent point guard play, nor will they have a player that will do the dirty work inside and defend the post. Furthermore, they have a first-year college head coach in Frank Martin. They will probably still make the NCAA Tournament based on talent alone, but this is a one-and-done team in March.

- Although Texas loses the best player in the country in Kevin Durant, the Longhorns will have more line-up options in 2007-2008. D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams form one of the best backcourts in the country, and fellow starters Damion James and Dameon Mason also return. This year, though, they will have a slew of quality big men to utilize in the post instead of throwing the 6-7 James down there. They can move James to small forward and go with two big men, namely freshman Clint Chapman or returnees Connor Atchley, Dexter Pittman, and Matt Hill. Mason can become a very good sixth man or stay in the starting line-up if James stays at the power forward position. Rick Barnes will have a deeper team this season, meaning he has more personnel to use in a variety of line-ups.

- Missouri has a chance to be a surprise in the Big 12 this season. Mike Anderson has had a year to implement his fast-paced, pressure defense, “40 Minutes of Hell” style, and will now have another athletic forward in the mix with Vanderbilt transfer DeMarre Carroll. He can score and rebound and will form a very good frontcourt trio with wing Marshall Brown and forward Matt Lawrence. Leyon Lyons is solid down low if Anderson wants to go big. Point guard Stefhon Hannah is one of the best guards in the Big 12, and Keon Lawrence can score. The Tigers are definitely going to be fun to watch.

- I know Al Skinner always gets the most out of his teams and it is a terrible idea to underestimate Boston College, but the Eagles have just one ACC-ready guard on the roster. That’s it—one. Tyrese Rice is one of the best guards in the country, but outside of him, the cupboard is almost bare in the backcourt. Biko Paris was not heavily recruited out of high school, but he will be thrown into the fire immediately. He is going to have to play well for BC to compete. The Eagles will have a solid frontcourt led by Shamari Spears, but it’s the backcourt that will be the key.

- I think Clemson could be a very tough team in the ACC if someone steps up at the point guard spot. Freshman Demontez Stitt will likely be the first option, as he is a pure point guard who can create havoc on the defensive end and score the ball as well. If he proves to be the answer, look out. Combine Stitt with scoring guards Cliff Hammonds and K.C. Rivers, and forwards James Mays and Trevor Booker, and the Tigers will have an athletic group capable of matching up with anyone.

- Despite the losses of Javaris Crittenton and Thaddeus Young to the NBA Draft and Mario West to graduation, I think that Georgia Tech is vastly underrated heading into the season. Freshman point guard Maurice Miller should become a solid point guard, while transfer Matt Causey can also help replace Crittenton at the lead guard position. Lewis Clinch should come back after getting kicked off the team last season, and will combine with Anthony Morrow to form a very good scoring duo on the wing. That will help ease the loss of Young. The Yellow Jackets are going to be very deep, capable of throwing different options and line-ups on the court. Freshman Gani Lawal could be a player to watch in the frontcourt. He can do a variety of things and is very active. If he makes an immediate impact and Miller can step in at the point, Tech will likely improve on last season’s NCAA Tournament first-round exit.

- There is going to plenty of shuffling in the middle part of the ACC this season. After the top four of North Carolina, Duke, North Carolina State, and Clemson, there is room for a lot of moving and shaking in the standings. You have Georgia Tech, Virginia, Maryland, Boston College, and Florida State as the teams likely to finish 5-9. After that, Miami and Wake Forest also have the talent to make a move in the standings. It will be interesting to see if either of them can make the jump. I think Virginia Tech will finish last, and the aforementioned foursome will finish at the top, but spots 5-11 are entirely up for grabs, and likely won’t be sorted out until early March. It will be an exciting race to follow.

Part three of the Summer Thoughts and Observations series will cover some mid-major talk and the latest happenings in the college basketball world.


  1. Would have preferred a bit more insight and commentary, but everything was well-put. Good job.

  2. Yeah, after re-reading both the first and second parts, I kind of liked the first one better--this one seemed short and too general.

  3. You mention UGA and Auburn in your SEC section, but no Vanderbilt? The Commodores have made two Sweet 16's in the past 4 years. They return Shan Foster who will probably be first team all-conference by year's end, and they add the best freshman in the league in AJ Ogilvy, an Australian center who tore up the FIBA circuit this summer. Bruce Pearl said that Ogilvy will be the biggest impact newcomer in the conference, and that includes his own Tyler Smith. Ogilvy is already projected as a first-round pick in the 2008 draft. Vandy has as legitimate a claim to second place as UK or Mississippi State.

  4. LOL - Vanderbilt?!? After losing Byars?!? Give me a break. You obviously know very little to nothing about SEC basketball.

  5. In addition to Jerome Randle, Cal also has redshirt soph Nikola Knezevic at the point. Some close to the program expect him to win the starting job. He's much taller (6'2) and a better defender than Randle.

  6. Kurt, if you think one player makes a team then it's you who knows little to nothing about basketball. As for me, I know that the Commodores return preseason first team all-SEC wing Shan Foster (16 ppg last season). I doubt you even took the time to read my last post, but Vandy also adds AJ Ogilvy, a 7-foot Australian with a killer set of post moves and a soft shooting touch. You probably don't know what FIBA is, but he was the third-leading scorer and leading rebounder in the U-19s this summer, a tournament that included professionals and American college stars. Vandy also adds a Rivals150 (do you know what that is, oh wise Kurt?) point guard in Keegan Bell. They will likely finish 3rd or 4th in the East, but if Ogilvy exceeds expectations (which he could), Vandy could be looking at a bye in the SEC tourney for the second straight year. Of course, your only argument was that they lost Byars. Maybe next time do a little research before you run your mouth.

  7. If you had taken the time to do YOUR homework, you'd have looked at my blog and seen I had an entire feature on Ogilvy, along with ranking each SEC team - along with the Commodores.

    Ogilvy is incredibly overrated, and Vanderbilt brings very little back from their Sweet 16 run last season.

    And as for your argument that Ogilvy might "exceed expectations", every player "might exceed expectations", and relying on that is nothing short of retardation.

    Arguing with you will obviously will get nowhere, considering your mind is already closed.

    Just don't go and commit suicide when the Commodores aren't even sniffing the front of the pack come March.

  8. Well Kurt you'll have to forgive me if I wasn't omniscient enough to know of your blog. I do see now that you have a feature on Ogilvy and so my sarcastic comments were unwarranted. But to say he's "incredibly overrated" and then not even mention what he's done this summer in FIBA and against D-1 competition (he dropped 16 on Utah in 14 minutes) seems a little uninformed. Also that Vandy "returns very little" from the tourney run last year is not true. Foster was as important a scorer as Byars for much of the season, and Alex Gordon and Ross Neltner were both starters and vital to the team's success. In fact, Vandy lost only two players of any consequence. Granted, Byars was far and away the most important, but Foster, Gordon, and Neltner all played bigger roles than Dan Cage. I agree that Ogilvy is not likely to be the world-beater some make him out to be, but he will certainly be more than a "role player" come SEC play, and because no SEC team outside of Arkansas can match that combo of size and skill, I'd say Vandy has a fine chance to finish top three in the division. Now we've taken up enough space on this blog, but I would ask that in future discussions you show a little class and refrain from such inane barbs as "you obviously know nothing about SEC basketball," because I can guarantee I follow it as much as you do. Maybe someday I'll check out what you have to offer on your blog and perhaps by then we can carry on a better discussion.

  9. Top 3 in the division is doable, but not likely. I am glad to know there is a Vanderbilt fan logical enough to admit Ogilvy is overrated. Good luck to the Commodores next season.

  10. Besides the fact that the Commodores have made appearances in two Sweet 16 in four years; which means Vanderbilt has more experienced active players with returning starters Foster, Gordon, and Neltner. Shan Foster will return and I'm sure will shoot from over the 40% mark this season being that Vanderbilt lost Byars is something that just happens to any team on the collegiate level but I know that Foster will step up and will perform like the All American he is. Along side, senior point guard Alex Gordon whose transition from being a scorer to a complete point guard has been tremendous, he'll be coming in this season leading the SEC in ast. to turn over ratio and did I mention he may be a factor as far as scoring this season: Reminder: Old news: 30 points in 2005 against rival Tenneessee wasn't a mistake it was talent and the kid can shoot the three ball. Ross Neltner along side A.J. Ogilvy will be a near dynamic duo in the Vanderbilt front court enough said. Last but not least look at the tough game situations of each starter in the SEC and tell me something different.

  11. Wow...someone a bit of a homer much?