Monday, July 23, 2007

MMAS Update: 500,000th Hit, etc.

It’s been a little slow around here lately, so I just wanted to give everyone an update on what has been going on with March Madness All Season and my other college basketball-related ventures.

First of all, March Madness All Season had its 500,000th hit over the weekend. In about two and a half years, the site has gone from a small independent blog that reached 2,000 hits on a really good day to a one that is associated with College Hoops Net, the internet’s biggest independent college basketball website, and reached over 30,000 hits on the Wednesday before the NCAA Tournament started this past March. Furthermore, March Madness All Season has become widely-read, by die-hard fans, beat writers, and well-known announcers and columnists. Considering I had my 100,000th hit last February, I think that MMAS is making very good progress. A special thanks to everyone who has supported MMAS throughout the time it has been around.

On the personal side, I have picked up a few more writing opportunities in the past couple of weeks. I have been hired as a staff writer for two sites, the Seton Hall one ( and the Wake Forest one ( Moreover, I am now one of the national basketball recruiting writers for a new recruiting website,, which is associated with ESPNU, ESPN Radio, and HoopTV. Check out all three of those sites, as well as and, for all my latest college basketball-related contributions.

The future for March Madness All Season looks exciting. I am in the process of changing the URL to, so it is much easier for all of my loyal readers to access the website. The layout will remain the same, it will just be an easier URL to remember.

As for articles, expect several more stories in the next couple of months—before the extensive 2007-2008 preview begins in mid-September. Here is some of the articles March Madness All Season will have in the coming weeks:

- My Summer Top 25, which will be released next week
- A look back at all the predictions I made over the past year
- Several “Rants and Ramblings” columns with various thoughts I have about the upcoming season and the goings-on of the offseason
- “The Great Leap Forward”, which will document some of the teams expected to make major jumps to the postseason next season
- “Remember Them?” which will discuss the top transfers that had to sit out last season, but will make an immediate impact next year
- I also might do a 2007 version of the “Top Ten College Basketball Cities” in early September. Here is
last year’s version if you want to check it out.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Who's #1?

During most summers leading up to the college basketball season, there is usually a team or two that is clearly the preseason No. 1 in the country. Last year, Florida returned all five starters from a team that won the national championship, and was a near-unanimous choice as the top team in the country (of course, I went against the grain and picked North Carolina). The year before, nearly everyone had Duke or Connecticut.

Heading into the 2007-2008 season, however, the top spot is up in the air. Is it North Carolina? Or Memphis? What about UCLA and Kansas? Can Georgetown or Louisville make a run from the Big East? Even Tennessee could be in the hunt, with the now-eligible Tyler Smith in the fold. How about anyone from the Big Ten?

You get the picture—in other words, this is going to be an extremely wide-open college basketball season, with no team head-and-shoulders above the rest of the country. Furthermore, the preseason magazines and rankings are going to tout a variety of teams at the No. 1 spot, including several of the aforementioned squads.

Most of the time, I have my preseason No. 1 picked before the previous season ends. You can usually look at the defending champion as a starting point—but Florida lost its top six players, including three top-ten draft picks. Sometimes, the runner-up gets the spot—but Ohio State lost four its top six players, including two top-four selections. This season was different, though. I have gone back and forth with several teams, trying to find the one weakness that will knock one team from contention or a hidden strength that will put another one over the top. Here is a look at all of the candidates to be the all-important preseason number one for the 2007-2007 season.

North Carolina was my preseason favorite heading into last season, and they might have what it takes to get the vaunted March Madness All Season #1 spot once again. They have the best big man in the country in Tyler Hansbrough, and a terrific sophomore backcourt in Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington. The Tar Heels also have plenty of depth, both inside and outside. However, UNC does starting forwards Reyshawn Terry and Brandan Wright. Furthermore, one of the Tar Heels’ more glaring problems last season was their lack of a true go-to-guy late in games—that needs to be solved this year.

Memphis is getting a lot of hype as a potential No. 1 team in country, and rightfully so. The Tigers return all five starters, including Chris Douglas-Roberts, who could develop into one of the premier wing scorers in the country next year. On top of that, John Calipari welcomes one of the best recruits in the country in guard Derrick Rose. He will immediately step into the starting lineup and provide Memphis with terrific scoring and passing. On the other hand, the Tigers lose second-leading scorer Jeremy Hunt. He was their best long-range shooter last season, and that will have to be replaced. Moreover, Memphis does play in Conference-USA, which, although it will be better next season, is not on the same level as the “Big Six” leagues. That could hurt them come March.

Had Arron Afflalo returned to school rather than enter the NBA Draft, UCLA would have been a great choice at the top spot. Instead, the Bruins are going to have to settle for the top five. They return the nation’s best point guard in Darren Collison as well as a very good wing scorer in Josh Shipp. Inside, Ben Howland brings Kevin Love into the fold, who will make an impact right away as one of the best post players around. The Bruins will also play typical, tough Howland defense. On the negative side, UCLA will need to find more scorers, both inside and outside. Its lack of firepower cost them last season.

Kansas was my pick to win it all last year heading into the NCAA Tournament, but they fell to the aforementioned UCLA Bruins one step short of the Final Four. They might make the jump this year. The Jayhawks return everyone but lottery pick Julian Wright, and get the services of freshman Cole Aldrich, who will bolster the post. Brandon Rush and Sherron Collins could be ready to break out as national stars. Like North Carolina, though, Kansas lacked a true go-to-guy last season. Rush, Collins, or Mario Chalmers needs to command the ball down the stretch and get points for KU. Interior scoring could be a problem, as well.

Out of the Big East, both Louisville and Georgetown could have the goods to make a run come March. The Cardinals only lose guard Brandon Jenkins from the starting lineup, and were really playing well towards the end of the season. Edgar Sosa could develop into one of the best point guards in the country, while Terrence Williams is a terrific all-around forward. Derrick Caracter needs to stay focused on basketball, and David Padgett and Juan Palacios have to stay healthy. However, the Cardinals need more consistent perimeter shooting and have to avoid the injury bug.

Georgetown, despite the loss of All-American Jeff Green, will contend nationally. Roy Hibbert boosted the Hoyas’ chances monumentally when he decided to withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school for his senior season. If he improves at the rate he did last year, he could dominate next year. Jonathan Wallace and Jessie Sapp form an underrated backcourt, while DaJuan Summers is ready for a bigger role. Don’t forget about five-star recruit Austin Freeman and incoming point guard Chris Wright, either. The Hoyas need perimeter production and a go-to-guy late in games in order to reach their full potential.

A darkhorse for the top spot could be Tennessee. The more I look at this team, the more I like it. The Volunteers should have defeated Ohio State last season in the Sweet Sixteen, and lose only Dane Bradshaw from that group. They return All-American Chris Lofton and fellow scoring wing JaJuan Smith. Sophomore Ramar Smith is improving at the point, and Wayne Chism is ready to break-out up front. More importantly, Bruce Pearl gains the services of Iowa transfer Tyler Smith, who is eligible to play immediately after coming over from the Hawkeyes. However, UT sometimes struggled in half-court games and also against teams that could control the paint.

Michigan State and Indiana are also getting a lot of hype as potential Final Four candidates. I like the Spartans a lot better than the Hoosiers, simply for the fact that they return more from what might have been a better team by the end of the year last season. Drew Neitzel is one of the best guards in the country, and Raymar Morgan is poised for a break-out season on the wing. Tom Izzo also welcomes a terrific recruiting class, led by guards Durrell Summers and Kalin Lucas. If Michigan State gets consistent inside production, look out.

As for the Hoosiers, they lost most of their perimeter production, but welcome one of the best freshman in the country in guard Eric Gordon. He could end up being one of the best players in the Big Ten, and will team with D.J. White to form the best inside-outside combination in the conference. A.J. Ratliff and Armon Bassett will join Gordon in a potent three-guard lineup. If they are going to win the Big Ten, though, the Hoosiers are going to have to be much better offensively—which Gordon will help immensely. An inside complement to White is also necessary; he will struggle if he gets double-teamed all the time.

Two other teams getting top ten billing in the preseason are Marquette and Washington State. Though neither is getting any sort of publicity as a potential No. 1 team, both are very good teams that will threaten to make the Final Four. Marquette returns one of the best guard groups in the country in Dominic James and Jerel McNeal, as well as wing Wesley Matthews. Ousmane Barro leads a capable collection of players up front. James will need to regain his freshman season form if the Golden Eagles are going to make a run. Furthermore, post production needs to improve from the likes of Barro and Lazar Hayward.

Washington State came out of nowhere last season to garner a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and make national noise. Tony Bennett did it behind outstanding defense and the vastly underrated backcourt of Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver. Luckily for Bennett, both of those guards return, along with frontcourt starters Daven Harmeling and Robbie Cowgill. On the other hand, the Cougars really struggled to score at times last season, as they don’t have that many players that can create their own shot. WSU is also not overly athletic in the frontcourt, which hurt them against teams that had more talent up front. No one will overlook the Cougars this season, though.

So, there you have it: eleven teams that comprise the majority of top-ten lists you will find out there currently. Only three or four of them are getting legit consideration for the top spot, but there is no clear-cut leader. Who is my pick for preseason No. 1 for the 2007-2008 season? You’ll have to wait until next week to find out, when I unveil my summer Top 25. Stay tuned.

Monday, July 2, 2007

2007 NBA Draft Rants and Ramblings

Here are some various thoughts I had on the 2008 NBA Draft, including which teams made the best picks, which clubs might have chosen future busts, and much more.

- Obviously, the first thing anyone thought of was Joakim Noah—and what he was wearing. Seriously, what was that? A bow tie? And why did he all of a sudden scare everyone and let his hair down? He said he wanted to represent New York in the right way with his outfit—the whole state should probably be ashamed right now. Dude looked like a complete circus.

- Atlanta basically passed on Amare Stoudamaire to get Al Horford and Acie Law. Amare is a game-changer and can dominate games—I don’t see either Horford or Law becoming nearly the impact player that Amare is.

- I don’t really like either side of the Boston-Seattle deal. Boston gets an aging shooting guard in Ray Allen to pair with another shoot-first wing in Paul Pierce; and a player without a position in Glen Davis. On the other side, Seattle gets a huge contract with Wally Szczerbiak; a solid guard in Delonte West; and another tall, versatile forward in Jeff Green (sounds a lot like Kevin Durant and, well, Rashard Lewis). I guess you can say it’s a fair trade, since both teams came out on the losing end.

- Sprite was clearly paying Yi Jianlian to drink its soda during the Draft. He fidgeted with the cap for at least ten seconds during the intro, and was never seen without it the rest of the Draft. Terrific product placement.

- By far the funniest moment (besides Stephen A. Smith’s general commentary throughout the show, of course) was when Kevin Durant’s mom wiped off his cheek and mouth while the camera was on him. I’m sure teams will be intimidated by him now.

- As a Knicks fan, you have to LOVE the trade for Zach Randolph. He and Eddy Curry down low will form arguably the best big man duo in the Eastern Conference—if not the entire league. They combined to average 43.2 points and 17.2 rebounds per game last season. One problem is that both kind of do the same things offensively—neither of them really steps out for jumpers to bring defenders away from the basket. However, if Randolph stays out of trouble, this trade is perfect. Steve Francis brought nothing to the table in New York, and while I will miss Channing Frye, I’d rather have Randolph any day of the week. To top it off, Fred Jones provides athleticism, and Dan Dickau can give some good minutes off the bench at the point—no more Nate Robinson running the show when Stephon Marbury needs a break is wonderful.

- While on the Knicks, though, I hate their pick of Wilson Chandler. It had been talked about for several days that he had received a guarantee from Isiah Thomas at the No. 23 spot, and I still haven’t found one reason to like the pick. The Knicks need a shooter from the wing who can score and create his own shot. Rice’s Morris Almond was sitting on the board—but no, Isiah wanted a forward who think he’s better than he is and doesn’t work hard. Remember, though, Isiah had said all along he was willing to take risks in the Draft, since he picked up Randolph Morris in free agency. Yup, Thomas drafted Wilson Chandler because Randolph Morris is on the team.

- One more trade (not counting solely in-Draft trades) to discuss: Golden State sending Jason Richardson and Jermareo Davidson to Charlotte for Brandan Wright. I think it’s a good trade for both sides. Golden State has tons of guards and perimeter players, and Monta Ellis can easily slide in to fill Richardson’s spot. Furthermore, Wright’s athletic, long frame should fit in very well with the Warriors’ up-tempo style. On the other side, Richardson immediately becomes the go-to-guy on the perimeter for the Bobcats. He and Gerald Wallace will form a supremely athletic duo at the wing positions. The Bobcats could have used Wright in the frontcourt, though. However, if Sean May and Emeka Okafor stay healthy, GM Michael Jordan will be fine up front.

- Back to Noah for a second: I don’t get why Chicago would use its pick on him. They need a big man that can score—not an energy player who likely won’t average double-figures. As much as I thought Spencer Hawes should have returned to Washington, he would have made sense with the ninth pick. However, I do think that Noah is a decent fit for the Bulls’ system. I’ve said for months that Noah would not be a great NBA player—unless he got drafted by Phoenix or maybe Chicago. He will be able to run with Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, etc.—he just won’t be able to start as long as Ben Wallace is around.

- Milwaukee will have an interesting situation with Yi. His representatives have been saying that he won’t play in Milwaukee—that’s quite a risk that the Bucks took with the sixth pick in the Draft. They could always trade him, however. Stay tuned.

- Philadelphia had an awful Draft—until their trades almost evened things out. They drafted two players who I think should have stayed in school another year in Thaddeus Young and Daequan Cook, and Petteri Koponen, who is still a few seasons away from contributing. Young is not ready for a starring role yet, and Cook is poised (in my opinion) for a career as a benchwarmer. However, they turned things around in trades. They dealt Cook for Jason Smith, who should help immediately with his all-around game, and then picked up Derrick Byars, a player who some thought could go in the first round, for Koponen. I still don’t think the Sixers draft was very good, but it wasn’t as bad as it originally looked.

- Nick Young, my favorite player in the Draft, dropped too far, in my opinion. He has plenty of offensive talent, and will make an immediate impact in the scoring department. Luckily for him, though, he gets to develop next to Gilbert Arenas in Washington. However, I didn’t think he was going to drop to sixteenth in the first round, and I was more surprised that a team like New Orleans passed on him. I think that the Hornets are going to regret it.

- I wonder if Phoenix realizes they are going to have to actually draft someone eventually. They sold their first pick once again, making it the fourth season in a row that they have sold or traded their top pick in the Draft. The Suns need bench help for Steve Nash, and continuing to miss out on quality talents in the first round will hurt them.

- If Sean Williams leaves his off-the-court troubles behind him at Boston College, he could turn out to be a terrific pick for New Jersey. His athleticism and shot-blocking ability inside makes him the perfect fit for the Nets, who have been lacking someone like that for several seasons.

- Did last year’s Draft not happen or something? What was the high amount of teams selecting players from a position that they drafted for last season as well. The Lakers took Jordan Farmar last year, Javaris Crittenton this year; Utah chose Ronnie Brewer last season, Morris Almond this season; Memphis drafted Kyle Lowry a year ago, Mike Conley on Thursday; Atlanta did the same thing with Shelden Williams and Al Horford; and Philadelphia, who seems to want to stockpile small forwards, took Thaddeus Young this year, and Rodney Carney and Bobby Jones last season. I guess GMs are developing more of a short leash on their rookies.

- San Antonio will continue its reign over the league, if smart drafting as anything to do with it. Tiago Splitter has been projected as a lottery pick for several seasons now, and will help once he comes over from Spain after next season, and Marcus Williams has a lot of talent if he can learn to play team ball.

- Why did Houston draft Aaron Brooks at the end of the first round? The Rockets already have three point guards in Mike James, Rafer Alston, and Luther Head—and Brooks is better suited to score the ball rather than create for teammates. 6-0 scoring guards don’t make it in the NBA.

- Why did Detroit draft two shooting guards in the first round in Rodney Stuckey and Arron Afflalo? Stuckey I can understand, but why Afflalo? He may help with his defensive abilities, but I don’t see him getting a lot of playing time in his first couple of seasons, especially with Rip Hamilton there.

- Boy, did Josh McRoberts’ stock drop over the past couple of seasons—and past couple of weeks, apparently. He was a lottery pick after high school, a possibly lottery pick after last season, and even a mid-first round pick once he declared for the Draft after this past season at Duke. But the No. 37 pick on Draft day? I don’t care too much for him, but he still has plenty of talent and should be able to contribute for the Trail Blazers.

- Speaking of the Blazers, they clearly had the best draft of the night. Getting Oden was the obvious pick, but Rudy Fernandez should be an immediate help in the backcourt, and Petteri Koponen will help in the future. More importantly, McRoberts was a great pick in the second round, and Taurean Green is capable of running a team at the point. They also got rid of team cancer Zach Randolph.

- I don’t see why Carl Landry was the first pick of the second round. He’s a 6-7 power forward that can’t really shoot beyond the foul line. He lacks explosiveness and great leaping ability—I don’t think he’s going to be a very good NBA player.

- While on the Big Ten, Adam Haluska? He didn’t get invited to the Orlando pre-draft camp, but New Orleans took him anyway. The Hornets needed an explosive wing that could score the ball—they didn’t get it with either of their picks, passing on the likes of Nick Young in the first round and a host of players in the second round.

- I like the Clippers’ draft. Al Thornton will make an immediate impact as an athletic scorer who can fill it up, and Jared Jordan has the vision to become a quality point guard as his career moves on.

- Couple of random comments about some second-rounders: Aaron Gray’s stock dropped big-time since last season...I like New York getting Demetris Nichols from Portland—he’s a tall shooter, which is exactly what the Knicks needed...D.J. Strawberry could become a good Phoenix player in a couple years—he’s athletic and a terrific defender. On a different note, the Suns’ pick of Alando Tucker in the first round will render immediate results...Dominic McGuire should help Washington at both ends of the floor...Reyshawn Terry is a great, great pick for Orlando. He’s athletic and can score with ease—he just needs to become more consistent