Tuesday, May 8, 2012
Take Two: Not enough hype
By Myron Medcalf and Jason King
Editor’s note: Each week, ESPN.com writers will debate a topic of interest in the college basketball landscape. Today’s topic: Which teams are garnering too much (and possibly unwarranted) preseason buzz? Which teams aren’t receiving enough? For the former, click here to see the selections of Eamonn Brennan and Dana O'Neill.
Jason King: Missouri
I’ve seen a few preseason college basketball polls that have Missouri somewhere between No. 20 and 25. But in the majority of them, the Tigers aren’t ranked at all.
I don’t understand it.
This is a team that returns a Cousy Award finalist (Phil Pressey), the national sixth man of the year (Michael Dixon) and a forward (Laurence Bowers) who averaged 11.6 points and 6.1 rebounds two seasons ago before missing 2011-12 with a knee injury. That’s a solid trio -- and those guys may not even be the best players on the team.
Since Frank Haith’s arrival last offseason, Missouri has become a home for transfers seeking a fresh start after things didn’t work out at their initial stop. Some folks are referring to Mizzou as Transfer U. The label is fair. As many as four transfers are expected to either start or play major roles for the Tigers.
What’s interesting is that these aren’t your average, run-of-the-mill transfers. Forward Alex Oriakhi started on Connecticut’s 2011 NCAA championship team. And the other three were the best players on their respective rosters before deciding to take their talents elsewhere.
Guard Earnest Ross averaged a team-high 13.1 points for Auburn two years ago. Keion Bell, who is also a guard, scored 18.9 points per game for Pepperdine in 2010-11 before electing to leave. Sharpshooter Jabari Brown -- a consensus top-20 recruit -- earned a starting spot in Oregon’s lineup last season but quit the team after two games.
Bottom line: We know all of these guys can play because they’ve all proven it. The one exception is Brown, but he’s the most highly touted of the four. Brown, Bell and Ross practiced with the Tigers throughout last season, so it’s not as if they won’t be used to Haith’s schemes and coaching style. Oriakhi doesn’t arrive on campus until this summer, but the senior veteran should adapt quickly.
Along with its speed, quickness and prowess from long range, Missouri’s biggest attribute last season was its chemistry. Not many teams in the country operated as a unit quite like Mizzou. That cohesion will be hard to match in 2012-13.
Still, to me, this team is too talented -- and its players are too proven -- to leave the Tigers out of the top 15.
Myron Medcalf: Arizona
Where’s the love for Arizona?
If we’re going to hype Kentucky and UCLA based on their impressive fleets of incoming freshmen, then we should boost Arizona, too.
The Wildcats will depend on highly touted freshmen next season. Just like Kentucky. Just like UCLA.
But Sean Miller’s program hasn’t received a comparable slice of buzz, even though he had the top-ranked recruiting class in 2012 prior to signing day. And the Wildcats could end up with the Pac-12 crown next season.
But the veterans will be the backstory for next season’s talented bunch.
Miller has brought in the No. 3 recruiting class in America, according to ESPN.com. He has three five-star post players that could make an immediate impact -- not to mention recent transfer Mark Lyons, who is available to play right away after graduating from Xavier. He averaged 15.1 ppg last season and can be a major contributor if he keeps his head on straight.
I watched Ashley ball on the summer circuit last year. Hard to imagine he’s the third-rated prospect in any class. Gabe York is also a talented young wing.
The Bruins’ youngsters will snatch the preseason headlines that precede the 2012-13 campaign. But by the end of the year, we’ll be talking about Arizona’s freshman leaders, too.
I just think Zona is a stacked young team, and that obviously carries weight following Kentucky’s run to the national title.
The greatest concern for a UA squad that imploded last season will be chemistry. Will the first-year guys blend with the veterans? That will be the most crucial component of the 2012-13 season for the Wildcats.
But again, John Calipari and Ben Howland will have the same challenge next season.
They’re all going to rely on skilled freshmen.
And if that’s the formula, then the Wildcats deserve far more buzz for their potential to disrupt the national scene next year.