College Basketball Nation: Colorado Buffaloes

BPI Talk: Virginia is elite in ACC play

January, 27, 2014
Jan 27
ESPN Stats & InformationNorth Carolina’s BPI rank is starting to rebound after a season-long tumble.
The best college basketball team this month isn't Arizona or Michigan or Syracuse or Florida or Kansas. It's the Virginia Cavaliers.

Virginia leads all teams in BPI in January.

The Cavaliers were ranked as low as 55th on Jan. 2 after a 35-point loss on Dec. 30 against Tennessee. But they've won six of seven games this month, all against ACC opponents.

They're now 21st in BPI, their highest rank this season. All six of their wins this month have a BPI game score better than 95. Game score is on a 0-100 scale.

Virginia's five losses have all come against teams ranked in the BPI top 55, three of them by four points or fewer.

Memphis streaking
In the last week, the Memphis Tigers have risen 12 spots from No. 48 to No. 36 in BPI. That's tied with Arizona State for the largest jump in the last week among teams currently ranked in the top 50.

Two of the Tigers' six best performances in terms of BPI game score have come in the last week: a 23-point win against Houston and a 22-point win against South Florida.

The Tigers have two top-15 wins to bolster their resume, both away from home: a five-point win on a neutral court against No. 9 Oklahoma State and a six-point win on the road at No. 14 Louisville.

All four of their losses have come against teams ranked in the BPI top 35: Oklahoma State, Florida, Cincinnati and Connecticut.

Memphis is one of four teams with multiple wins against the BPI top 15 without any losses outside the BPI top 35. The others are Syracuse (BPI No. 4), Villanova (15) and San Diego State (22).

Ups and downs for UNC
The North Carolina Tar Heels have had quite the turbulent season. They’re the only team with two wins against the BPI top seven this season. Michigan and Kansas are the only other teams with two wins against the BPI top 10.

The Tar Heels have defeated No. 5 Kentucky, No. 7 Michigan State and No. 14 Louisville. Michigan is the only other team with three wins against the BPI top 15.

North Carolina was No. 22 in BPI after its win against Kentucky in mid-December. But since then, the Tar Heels have been in a free fall.

They dropped outside the top 40 for the first time on Jan. 6 after a loss to Wake Forest. They dropped outside the top 50 three days later after a loss to Miami (FL).

They reached their low point on Saturday, falling all the way to No. 61. But after their 19-point win against Clemson on Sunday, the Tar Heels jumped back up to No. 50. The win against Clemson was their second-best BPI game score of the season, 98.7 (only their win against Michigan State, 99.5, was better).

Tough week for Harvard, Colorado and Villanova
Of teams currently in the BPI top 50, no teams fell further in the last week than Harvard, Colorado and Villanova.

Harvard fell 12 spots from No. 26 to No. 38 after a 15-point loss to No. 223 Florida Atlantic on Tuesday. It was by far Harvard's worst performance of the season in terms of BPI game score.

In fact, Harvard's 8.4 BPI game score against Florida Atlantic is the worst performance this season by any team currently ranked in the top 50.

Colorado and Villanova each fell 10 spots in the last week. Colorado now is No. 46, Villanova is No. 15.

Colorado's karma good in upset of KU

December, 7, 2013

A year later, Colorado finally got the reversal it deserved. The buzzer-beater it was owed finally, officially counted. The upset it earned was finally recorded as a win.

OK, so it has been more like 11 months. And, OK, the officials didn't have anything to do with it. Colorado's Jan. 3 loss to Arizona -- when Buffaloes guard Sabatino Chen banked in a last-millisecond 3-pointer that looked like it should have counted, but was stunningly reversed -- didn't, say, get an official review from the NCAA that passed just this week. Horrifyingly plausible though that scenario might seem.

No, Colorado's lost upset was remitted karmically. The funds hit the account in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday afternoon just before 5:30 p.m. ET, and boy did they make a splash.

[+] EnlargeAskia Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie
Andy Cross/The Denver Post via Getty ImagesAskia Booker's face says it all: He hit the winning 3 at the buzzer as Colorado stunned Kansas.
Fortunately, Askia Booker's Euro-stepping, buzzer-beating 3-pointer -- the one that gave Colorado a 75-72 walk-off win and sent Colorado students careening to the Coors Event Center floor -- should be less controversial than Chen's was in January, even if it didn't look that way at first. Live, Booker's shot looked like a travel (not that it could have been reviewed, anyway). But the replay soon made clear that he had (somehow) wrong-footed his two-step pre-shot maneuver, gliding past Kansas's Frank Mason at mid-court just before (again: somehow) flicking the ball into the Buffs' home net. It was Manu Ginobili-style stuff, and even Manu would have had second thoughts about the technique.

"It felt really good," Booker said just afterward, as he was swarmed by fans, teammates and the ESPN broadcast crew.

He was talking about the release of the shot, not its result, but the phrase surely applies to both. Insane as the final play was, it was preceded by 39 minutes, 57 seconds of efficient, tidy, advantage-seeking basketball from the Buffaloes. Colorado scored 1.17 points per possession, avoiding turnovers on all but 12.5 percent of their offensive trips. They were balanced, too: Four starters finished with either 14 (Xavier Johnson, Josh Scott) or 15 (Booker, Spencer Dinwiddie) points apiece.

Which is not to say they were always pretty. Colorado shot only 41 percent, 31 percent from 3. How, then, did Tad Boyle's manage its efficiency? Not from fluidity, but assertion. Kansas' main defensive weakness to date -- really, its chief weakness as a team -- is its tendency to foul. The Jayhawks were whistled for 26 fouls on Saturday, 13 in each half. One late, key stretch was dominated by fouls: Dinwiddie blew by a Kansas defender and muscled his way to the rim, earning a foul and knocking down two free throws. With 1:44 left, his drive sent Kansas center Joel Embiid to the sideline. The Buffaloes shot 37 free throws. They made only 22, but they were enough.

Kansas' collection of young talent showed plenty of flaws. The Jayhawks are struggling from beyond the arc: They entered Saturday averaging 30.7 percent from 3, and their 5-of-20 night in Boulder won't raise that tally. Kansas' outside shooting woes have helped opposing teams take away its chief strength -- namely, its insane one-on-one talent.

Andrew Wiggins had one of his best games on Saturday. He is the rare player whose games can seem both impressive and oddly quiet at the same time. He finished with 22 points and five rebounds on 7-of-11 shooting.

But it was only occasionally -- as in his late half-court-length drive that ended in an effortlessly improvised left-handed finish. Maybe three players in the country could conceive of putting that play together, and you watch Kansas waiting for more. But because the Jayhawks can't stretch the floor and force teams to guard them man-to-man, Wiggins' lithe frame is often wasted on the perimeter. He floats.

Beyond that? The Jayhawks foul to their own detriment far too often; their high-screen defense was wildly suspect, both at the point of attack and in rotation; and, despite their physical advantages, they were outrebounded on both ends on Saturday. This is Bill Self's youngest team. It shows, subtly and not.

And yet Self, once he has processed the sting of the loss, can probably walk away from Boulder feeling pretty good. Last Saturday, after a limp trip to the Bahamas, Self was openly disappointed in his team's energy, its effort, his coaching, the whole nine. A few days later, his young team executed well down the stretch in an environment far more hostile than the Atlantis casino floor. The game was tied, after all, thanks to his clever play-calling out of a timeout and forward Perry Ellis' decisive finish with 5 seconds remaining. Colorado is a good and well-coached team. The Buffaloes are experienced; Dinwiddie and Booker are excellent. True road games are brutal. And so on.

Self gave his young group the toughest schedule in the country this season for a reason: He'll happily trade a loss or two for learning. He can say as much about Saturday's trip to Boulder, and while he'll hope for a different outcome Tuesday in Gainesville, Fla., against Billy Donovan's Gators, he might acquiesce to the same trade there.

After all, sometimes the game you claw into overtime doesn't get there. Sometimes, some basketball god somewhere owes your opponent a year-old debt, and sometimes that debt is repaid at your expense.

The game owed Colorado a buzzer-beating upset. Saturday, finally, the Buffs got what they deserved.

Weekend Homework: Colorado's chance

December, 5, 2013
When you’re Colorado basketball, piling up steady and solid wins isn’t good enough to raise eyebrows nationally. The Buffaloes need to claim a signature victory against a well-known opponent. That chance arrives on Saturday, when No. 6 Kansas ventures into Boulder, Colo.

You'd best believe the Jayhawks have been in the back of the Buffaloes' collective minds all offseason. That’s partly because of the 90-54 beatdown Kansas put on Colorado last season at Allen Fieldhouse. But it’s more about what a win could do for the Buffs this season.

The need for Colorado to play well in this game was only magnified after its season-opening loss to then-No. 25 Baylor in one of those games it would love to have back. The Buffs trailed the entire game, shot just 33 percent and couldn’t pull closer than two possessions in the second half. Whatever traction the Buffs had nationally quickly eroded and bounced them to the periphery.

Now’s their chance to gain it back.

Colorado rides an eight-game winning streak into its meeting with Kansas. That streak was punctuated with a quality win over Harvard.

CU coach Tad Boyle also navigated his team through back-to-back true road games in wins over Air Force and rival Colorado State. Boyle scheduled as tough a six-game nonconference stretch as there is in the country.

The Buffaloes completed the first three unscathed, but the Jayhawks represent a move up in competition level for the next three games. After Kansas, the Buffaloes face Elon and conclude arguably the most difficult portion of their schedule against No. 9 Oklahoma State.

The most notable improvement Colorado has made since its season opener has come defensively. The Buffs rank third in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, allowing just 65.2 points per game. They’re also third in rebounding margin, collecting an average of 11.1 more boards than their opponents.

Colorado is as balanced as it gets, with four players averaging double figures. Guard Spencer Dinwiddie leads the team with 13.8 points per game, which is just a shade less than his 15.3 average a season ago. If the Buffs are to pull off an upset, they’ll likely need Dinwiddie and backcourt mate Askia Booker to play strong.
Let's face it, women's basketball games are not well-attended.

That is not necessarily an indictment of women's basketball. After all, plenty of collegiate events suffer attendance issues, issues that span gender and type. No one would argue that the women's game is "better" than the men's, but it does have plenty of unique, subtle appeal. Unfortunately, far fewer people care. This is the way of the world. Getting butts in seats requires creativity.

Colorado's athletics department has no illusions on the matter. Even more amusing, it has zero compunction about leveraging what it does have -- in this case, a super-hot men's hoops ticket. Which is how Buffs brass arrived at this genius plan:
The claim process for the Kansas men's basketball game, which takes place on Saturday, December 7 at 1:15 p.m., will take place Wednesday, November 20 at the No. 16-ranked women's basketball team's game against Iowa at 8:30 p.m. at the Coors Events Center.
Students will enter through the southeast entrance of the Coors Events Center beginning at 7:30 p.m. You will swipe your Buff OneCard and receive a wristband, which you will need to keep on. Your wristband guarantees you your ticket to the Kansas game. If you leave the Events Center prior to the conclusion of the game, your wristband will be removed.

To get their Kansas tickets, Colorado students have to go to the court immediately following the women's game, where they can exchange their wristband for a ticket. That's brilliant.

Now, if I was a student and a rabid men's basketball fan at Colorado, would I be especially thrilled? Probably not. Being a student is kind of a busy process, and you're telling me that to attend the best men's hoops game of the year -- when old Big 12 rival Kansas and star freshman Andrew Wiggins come to town -- I have to take two-plus hours out of a separate, totally unrelated night? This would make me kind of angry. Maybe I have an exam that week, and it's dumb for me to go. Maybe I blocked off the one Colorado game I want to make it to this season. Likewise, if I was a player for the Lady Buffs, I'm not sure how I'd feel. More students in seats is great, but do you really want to play to a begrudging crowd?

Ah, well, whatever. It's not like Colorado athletics are making students do a 10K run; they have to sit through two hours of a basketball game they probably weren't planning on attending. At least they don't have to dress up.

(Hat tip: Norlander)

3-point shot: Outlook for Colorado, more

November, 5, 2013

Andy Katz discusses the early outlook for Colorado, Notre Dame and St. John's.

3-point shot: Champions Classic

October, 25, 2013

Andy Katz discusses a new Champions Classic in the works, Dustin Thomas' arrival in Colorado and Nick Duncan's impact on Boise State.

3-point shot: Colorado assists neighbors

September, 16, 2013
1. Colorado coach Tad Boyle, his staff and players helped on campus Saturday to aid those in need after floods in the Boulder area that have affected thousands. The team fed displaced families and helped cover short-staffed crews in the cafeteria.

2. BYU coach Dave Rose is expected to be released from the hospital Monday after last week's surgery to remove cancerous spots. Rose will have to take it easy the next few weeks, but the Cougars' staff expects him to be ready for the start of BYU practice Oct. 7. Teams are allowed to start practicing on Sept. 27. But the new rule is for 30 practices within 42 days of a team's first game, so schools can manage the start time to their schedule. That means there will be staggered practice days from Sept. 27 with not every team practicing on the same days.

3. No one should be surprised by former UTEP signee Isaac Hamilton ending up at UCLA. Hamilton's family made it clear that he wanted to be at USC or UCLA once he told UTEP he wasn't going to attend so he could be closer to his ailing grandmother. According to Hamilton's father, Greg, Isaac can be on a scholarship but without being released from his national letter of intent, he cannot play this season. UCLA cannot comment on Hamilton's arrival until all his paperwork is in to the school. UCLA coach Steve Alford is on the lookout for talent that can produce from Southern California. The onus will be on Hamilton to be a force in the fall of 2014 by using this ineligible season to his advantage.

The 10 best nonconference schedules

September, 12, 2013
A quick and standard disclaimer: I limited this list to teams from the top nine conferences, i.e., the ones we covered in detail in this week's scheduling analyses. For a list of teams from outside these leagues with notably difficult schedules (we should start calling this the Long Beach State Memorial Subdivision), see Myron Medcalf's "Others" piece here.


Toughest: Hall of Fame Tipoff (Nov. 23-24), at Michigan State (Dec. 4), Kentucky (Dec. 14)
Next-toughest: Texas (Dec. 18)
The rest: Oakland (Nov. 8), Holy Cross (Nov. 15), Belmont (Nov. 17), at UAB (Dec. 1), UNC Greensboro (Dec. 7), Davidson (Dec. 21), Northern Kentucky (Dec. 27), UNC Wilmington (Dec. 31)

This schedule's overall strength hinges on the Hall of Fame Tipoff. If the Tar Heels meet Louisville in the "championship" of that two-game event at the Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn., their nonconference schedule will thus include what seem sure to be, in some order, the Nos. 1, 2 and 3 teams in the country to start the season -- national title favorites (or co-favorites) all. Without that Louisville game, though, the Heels still have to go to the Breslin Center for the ACC/Big Ten Challenge; they still have that massive matchup with Kentucky on Dec. 14; and they still have some very good mid-major programs (Oakland, Belmont, Davidson) lying in wait on the rest of the docket. It's a good schedule, with a strong chance to be great.


Toughest: vs. Baylor (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Harvard (Nov. 24), Kansas (Dec. 7), vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 21 in Las Vegas)
Next-toughest: Wyoming (Nov. 13), at Colorado State (Dec. 3), Georgia (Dec. 28)
The rest: UT Martin (Nov. 10), Jackson State (Nov. 16), Arkansas State (Nov. 18), UCSB (Nov. 21), at Air Force (Nov. 30), Elon (Dec. 13)

In relatively short order, Tad Boyle has turned Colorado into a program that expects to play NCAA-tournament-level basketball on a yearly basis, and with that improved status, the ability -- and a willingness -- to build tough schedules has followed. (Boyle surely took heed in 2011, when his otherwise worthy squad was left out of the tournament thanks to its atrocious nonconference schedule.) The result is what you see above, which is highlighted by huge games against former Big 12 foes Kansas and Oklahoma State, complemented by games against a talented Baylor group and the loaded, experienced Crimson. (Which, yes, is a really weird phrase to write.) The good news, at least in real-world wins and losses terms, is that none of those games is a true road visit, plus almost all of the second-level opponents Colorado will face (Wyoming, Air Force, Colorado State, Georgia) are retooling.


Toughest: at Wisconsin (Nov. 12), at UConn (Dec. 2), Kansas (Dec. 10), Memphis (Dec. 17)
Next-toughest: Florida State (Nov. 29)
The rest: North Florida (Nov. 8), Arkansas-Little Rock (Nov. 16), Southern (Nov. 18), Middle Tennessee (Nov. 21), at Jacksonville (Nov. 25), Savannah State (Dec. 9), Fresno State (Dec. 21), Richmond (Jan. 4)

Wisconsin's vaunted home advantage took a bit of a hit last season when Virginia beat the Badgers at their own deliberate game in Madison. But no matter: The Kohl Center is still an especially difficult place to play, particularly for nonconference visitors, and Dec. 2's trip to UConn won't be all that much easier. Florida State looks likely to be down, but Richmond could prove a quality second-tier opponent. Memphis' experienced backcourt could be a particularly tricky matchup. And of course there is the gem of the schedule, that Dec. 10 date against Kansas, that gives much of its heft.


Toughest: vs. Michigan State (Nov. 12 in Chicago), at North Carolina (Dec. 14), Louisville (Dec. 28)
Next-toughest: Baylor (Dec. 6 in Arlington, Texas), vs. Providence (Dec. 1 in Brooklyn), Boise State (Dec. 10)
The rest: UNC Asheville (Nov. 8), Northern Kentucky (Nov. 10), Robert Morris (Nov. 17), Texas-Arlington (Nov. 19), Cleveland State (Nov. 25), Eastern Michigan (Nov. 27), Belmont (Dec. 21)

John Calipari's skill at assembling and unleashing brilliant young ensembles will meet its toughest test this season, as his certifiably insane freshman class -- which, by way of reminder, boasts five of the top nine, and six of the top 25, players in the 2013 class -- will have exactly two tuneups (UNC Asheville and Northern Kentucky) before facing Tom Izzo's vastly more experienced national title contender at the Champions Classic on Nov. 12. The Wildcats also have to travel to UNC, and to Jerryworld for Calipari's much-touted "event" versus Baylor. But by far the biggest game on UK's schedule -- and the biggest game of the season, period -- against hated rival and defending national champion Louisville, comes in the comfy old confines of Rupp Arena.


Toughest: at San Diego State (Nov. 14), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 27-29 in New York), at Michigan (Dec. 14)
Next-toughest: UNLV (Dec. 7)
The rest: Cal Poly (Nov. 8), Long Beach State (Nov. 11), New Mexico State (Dec. 11), Southern (Dec. 19), Northern Arizona (Dec. 23)

The NIT Season Tip-Off is not like most early-season events, where the marquee teams' participation is guaranteed no matter what happens in the early preliminary pods. But assuming the supremely talented Wildcats handle business at their own host site and get through their semifinal matchup (over Alabama or Rutgers) in New York, they're likely to square off against Duke on Nov. 29 in Madison Square Garden. Sean Miller also nets some bonus points for picking up two good old-fashioned straight-up noncon road games -- no preseason event affiliation required. The trip to San Diego State means going up against The Show, which, no thanks; the journey to Ann Arbor means a date with the reloaded national runners-up.


Toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24), at Duke (Dec. 3), Arizona (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: at Iowa State (Nov. 17), vs. Stanford (Dec. 21 in Brooklyn)
The rest: UMass Lowell (Nov. 8), South Carolina State (Nov. 12), Coppin State (Nov. 29), Houston Baptist (Dec. 7), Holy Cross (Dec. 28)

With Kansas State, VCU, Georgetown (and even Charlotte and Long Beach State) in the field, the Puerto Rico Tip-Off is one of the stronger nonconference events this season. The aforementioned fixture against Arizona in Ann Arbor is highly intriguing, and Hilton Coliseum is never a particularly inviting place to play. And then there's that trip to Duke -- as tough a road trip as any in the country.


Toughest: vs. Kansas (Nov. 12 in Chicago), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 27-29), Michigan (Dec. 3), vs. UCLA (Dec. 19 in New York City)
Next-toughest: Davidson (Nov. 8)
The rest: Florida Atlantic (Nov. 15), UNC Asheville (Nov. 18), East Carolina/Norfolk State (Nov. 19), Vermont (Nov. 24), Gardner-Webb (Dec. 16), Eastern Michigan (Dec. 28), Elon (Dec. 31)

Duke's 2013-14 nonconference slate could have ranked even higher on this list were it not for the fact that the Blue Devils don't have an actual road game in the mix. Even so, the fact remains they'll play Kansas, Michigan, UCLA and possibly Arizona before the new year, which is as deep a docket of high-end matchups as any schedule in the country.


Toughest: vs. Oregon (Nov. 8 in South Korea), at Kansas (Dec. 21), vs. Michigan State (Feb. 1 in New York)
Next-toughest: Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 21-24)
The rest: Wright State (Nov. 13), Lipscomb (Nov. 30), High Point (Dec. 5), Colgate (Dec. 7), Elon (Dec. 17), Florida International (Dec. 28)

"Short of matching up with Kentucky in Kabul," our own Dana O'Neil wrote Monday, "I’m not sure how John Thompson III could have made his schedule much more daunting." I'll co-sign that statement. Georgetown's participation in its landmark Armed Forces Classic game against Oregon in South Korea (the first regular-season college basketball game to be played in Asia since 1982, when Ralph Sampson and Hakeem Olajuwon took their talents to Tokyo) is brutal for sheer logistical reasons alone. The Puerto Rico Tip-Off offers potential matchups against VCU and Michigan; the Hoyas travel to Kansas before the holiday break; and they save a nonconference appearance for Feb. 1, Super Bowl Sunday, against Michigan State in Madison Square Garden.


Toughest: at Oklahoma State (Nov. 19), Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Orlando, Fla.), vs. Florida (Dec. 17 in New York), Gonzaga (Feb. 8)
Next-toughest: N/A
The rest: Austin Peay (Nov. 14), Nicholls State (Nov. 23), Northwestern State (Dec. 7), Arkansas-Little Rock (Dec. 13), Southeast Missouri State (Dec. 21), Jackson State (Dec. 28)

Ranking these schedules is always a bit of a subjective exercise. Much of the perceived strength comes from our educated guesses about the season ahead, guesses that prove incorrect as often as they come true. It also asks us to weigh entire early-season tournaments and the matchups therein, and hey, how are we supposed to know whether Memphis will meet Oklahoma State in the Old Spice Classic final? We can't. But I'm awarding credit to the Tigers for a schedule that could include two matchups with the Cowboys, the first in Stillwater on Nov. 19, the second just two weeks later, on Dec. 1. That requires both teams to advance that far, sure, but the potential is too intriguing to consider an alternative. If you have to play Marcus Smart twice in two weeks, your schedule is hard, man. End of story.


Toughest: vs. Duke (Nov. 12 in Chicago), at Colorado (Dec. 7), at Florida (Dec. 10), New Mexico (Dec. 14), Georgetown (Dec. 21), San Diego State (Jan. 5)
Next-toughest: Iona (Nov. 19), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in Nassau, Bahamas)
The rest: Louisiana-Monroe (Dec. 8), Towson (Nov. 22), Toledo (Dec. 30)

Kansas is the lone exception to the rule governing this list. How do I mean? The other nine schedules you see are different by degrees, and subtle ones at that -- a road trip vs. a neutral site event, a quality second tier, that sort of stuff. Kansas stands apart. No one else makes the most of the two months preceding conference play: The Jayhawks have just two true cupcakes on their docket (Iona and Towson are plenty talented, and you likely will see them in March). The rest of the slate is populated by a combination of elite fixtures (the Andrew Wiggins-Jabari Parker matchup at the Champions Classic just needs to get here already, please), brutal road games (at Colorado, at Florida), very solid home fixtures (New Mexico, Georgetown, San Diego State) and a high-quality exempt tournament (the Battle 4 Atlantis) which contains Tennessee, Villanova and Iowa among its potential upset threats.

Especially interesting? This is not a normal Kansas season. Most years, Self would unveil a schedule like this (though rarely this tough) to a crop of veteran, experienced, developmentally ripened veterans. This year, he will lead an almost entirely new batch of young players -- featuring Wiggins, yes, but also classmates Wayne Selden, Joel Embiid, Brannen Greene and Conner Frankamp -- into the breach. Watching how that team develops and congeals in the early months is going to be highly intriguing, far more so than any argument about who has the best schedule in the country. That debate should be settled.

Nonconference schedule analysis: Pac-12

September, 11, 2013
This week, has been breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation's top leagues. Next up: the Pac-12.


Toughest: at San Diego State (Nov. 14), NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 27-29 in New York), at Michigan (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: UNLV (Dec. 7)
The rest: Cal Poly (Nov. 8), Long Beach State (Nov. 11), New Mexico State (Dec. 11), Southern (Dec. 19), Northern Arizona (Dec. 23)

Toughness scale: 9 -- The Wildcats will go to one of the toughest spots in the Big Ten and in the Mountain West within a month of each other. The NIT Season Tip-Off is on the top line because it seems Arizona and Duke have a pretty clear path to the NIT final at MSG. If that occurs, then the Cats would have three premier games away from home. Playing UNLV and NMSU in Tucson will hardly be a cakewalk, either. This team can handle the chore, though, since it's got top-10 talent.


Toughest: at UNLV (Nov. 19), Marquette (Nov. 25), Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Fullerton and Anaheim, Calif.)
Next toughest: at DePaul (Dec. 5)
The rest: UMBC (Nov. 8), Miami-Ohio (Nov. 12), Idaho State (Nov. 15), Bradley (Nov. 22), Grambling (Dec. 14), Texas Tech (Dec. 21), UC Irvine (Dec. 28).

Toughness scale: 7 -- The Sun Devils play a number of teams that might not move the meter but are all high-level NCAA-bound squads. Marquette will be as tough a team to face as any on the slate and going to UNLV will be one of the hardest road stops. Opening with Creighton in the Wooden Legacy should be one of the top first-round games of any tournament (and with a win, San Diego State likely awaits). The road game at DePaul has to be taken seriously after the Blue Demons stunned the Sun Devils last season in Tempe. This is a quality schedule for a team that has NCAA expectations.


Toughest: Maui Invitational (Nov. 25-27), at Creighton (Dec. 22)
Next toughest: at UC Santa Barbara (Dec. 6)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 8), Denver (Nov. 12), Oakland (Nov. 15), Southern Utah (Nov. 18), UC Irvine (Dec. 2), Nevada (Dec. 10), Fresno State (Dec. 14), Furman (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale: 5 -- The game at Creighton is by far the toughest for the Bears. The question is who does Cal eventually get in Maui? If the Bears get past Arkansas, Syracuse is next and the schedule toughness goes up. If the draw is Minnesota, then it’s not as bad. Playing Baylor or Gonzaga on Day 3 would also help the schedule strength. This is a Bears' team that will get ripe with age in the season, so not overloading it early was the smart move.


Toughest: vs. Baylor (Nov. 8 in Dallas), Harvard (Nov. 24), Kansas (Dec. 7), vs. Oklahoma State (Dec. 21 in Las Vegas)
Next toughest: Wyoming (Nov. 13), at Air Force (Nov. 30), at Colorado State (Dec. 3), Georgia (Dec. 28)
The rest: UT Martin (Nov. 10), Jackson State (Nov. 16), Arkansas State (Nov. 18), UCSB (Nov. 21), Elon (Dec. 13)

Toughness scale: 9 -- The Buffaloes get major props for going out and scheduling one of the most difficult slates of any potential NCAA team. The toughest category above has four teams that should take turns in the top 25 and in the case of KU and OSU in the top five. Going to CSU is as tough a rivalry game as anyone will play. There are two more quality rivalry games at Air Force and against Wyoming and an improving Georgia coming west. Colorado might be more ready than any other Pac-12 team for conference play.


Toughest: vs. Georgetown (Nov. 8 in South Korea), at Ole Miss (Dec. 8), vs. Illinois (Dec. 14 in Portland)
Next toughest: BYU (Dec. 21)
The rest: Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Nov. 13), Utah Valley (Nov. 19), San Francisco (Nov. 24), Pacific (Nov. 29), North Dakota (Nov. 30), Cal Poly (Dec. 1), Morgan State (Dec. 29).

Toughness scale: 7 -- The Ducks will test themselves with the trip to Camp Humphreys in Seoul and Georgetown is a tough team to play no matter the location. But this will be a hard game to deal with, based on the location and logistics. The Rebels will likely be at full strength when the Ducks come calling in December. Illinois is rebuilding a bit but is always a tough out, even in a Duck-leaning site in Portland. BYU is a sleeper game on this schedule with the Cougars owning a legitimate shot to pull off the upset.


Toughest: at Maryland (Nov. 17), Diamond Head Classic (Dec. 22-25)
Next toughest: at DePaul (Dec. 1), Towson (Dec. 18)
The rest: Coppin State (Nov. 10), Portland (Nov. 13), SIU Edwardsville (Nov. 26), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 7), Maryland Eastern Shore (Dec. 15), Quinnipiac (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 4 -- The Beavers are still dealing with the suspensions of Eric Moreland and Devon Collier. So a schedule that is too tough wouldn't have made sense for them. Going on the road to Maryland early in the season could be a wake-up call. A road game at DePaul is hardly going to be easy for the Beavers. The Diamond Head Classic could be intriguing if the Beavers beat Akron and get Iowa State on Day 2.


Toughest: at UConn (Dec. 18), vs. Michigan (Dec. 21 in Brooklyn, N.Y.)
Next toughest: BYU (Nov. 11), Legends Classic (Nov. 25-26 in New York)
The rest: Bucknell (Nov. 8), Northwestern (Nov. 14), at Denver (Nov. 17), Texas Southern (Nov. 21), South Dakota State (Dec. 1), UC Davis (Dec. 14), Cal Poly (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 6 -- The Cardinal get plenty of credit for going east -- twice. Stanford will be ready for the road in the Pac-12 after November and December. The UConn-Michigan swing in the tri-state area is as tough a nonconference road trip as any team has from the West Coast. Washington tried this two years ago with Marquette and Duke in New York City and went home winless. The Legends Classic could turn out to be Stanford's event if the Cardinal can get by Houston and then an anticipated matchup with Pitt. BYU in the opener will wake up this team, too.


Toughest: at Missouri (Dec. 7), vs. Duke (Dec. 19 in New York)
Next toughest: vs. Northwestern (Nov. 29 in Las Vegas), Alabama (Dec. 28)
The rest: Drexel (Nov. 8), Oakland (Nov. 12), Sacramento State (Nov. 18), Morehead State (Nov. 22), Chattanooga (Nov. 24), vs. Nevada (Nov. 28 in Las Vegas), UCSB (Dec. 3), Prairie View A&M (Dec. 14), Weber State (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale: 6 -- The Bruins didn't hide from playing Duke in New York City, a virtual home game for the Blue Devils. The return game at Mizzou will be as rocking a road game for UCLA as it will have during the season. The rest of the slate is more than manageable. There is always room to stumble and the Bruins have at home recently. So let's see if Steve Alford wins the games he's supposed to at Pauley.


Toughest: at Utah State (Nov. 8), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in the Bahamas)
Next toughest: Boston College (Dec. 8), at Long Beach State (Dec. 19), at Dayton (Dec. 22)
The rest: Cal State Northridge (Nov. 12), Northern Arizona (Nov. 15), Cal State Fullerton (Nov. 19), West Alabama (Nov. 21), CSU Bakersfield (Dec. 15), Howard (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 7 -- The Trojans are going to places few Pac-12 schools would choose to go. No teams from power conferences, outside of Mississippi State this season, go to Utah State. The trip to Logan to open the season will be a bear for new coach Andy Enfield. The Atlantis tournament might not be kind to the Trojans, either, with a possible second-round game against Kansas (after opening with Villanova). BC is much improved and will test USC at home. The road games to Long Beach State and Dayton are two other stops not normally found on a high-major nonconference road schedule.


Toughest: at Boise State (Dec. 3), BYU (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: Fresno State (Dec. 7)
The rest: Evergreen State (Nov. 8), UC Davis (Nov. 15), Grand Canyon (Nov. 21), Lamar (Nov. 22), Savannah State (Nov. 23), Ball State (Nov. 27), Idaho State (Dec. 10), Texas State (Dec. 19), St. Katherine (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale: 3 -- The Utes play one true road game in the nonconference. Boise State should be the second pick in the Mountain West, so that will be a tough one. The BYU rivalry game is at home this season, a plus for the Utes. But the rest of the schedule is weak. That's OK, considering Utah is trying to rebuild under Larry Krystkowiak. But they can't expect much of a postseason chance off this schedule.


Toughest: 2K Sports Classic (Nov. 21-22 in New York), at San Diego State (Dec. 8), UConn (Dec. 22)
Next toughest: N/A
The rest: Seattle (Nov. 10), UC Irvine (Nov. 14), Eastern Washington (Nov. 17), Montana (Nov. 26), Long Beach State (Nov. 30), Idaho State (Dec. 14), at Tulane (Dec. 17), Mississippi Valley (Dec. 27), Hartford (Dec. 29)

Toughness scale: 6 -- Washington has some renewed energy and is a team that should be on the radar as a possible NCAA tourney squad. That means the games against the Aztecs, home against UConn and then in New York against Indiana and either BC or UConn will carry significant weight as to how UW is judged as tourney worthy or not in March. I like this schedule as a legitimate prep for the Pac-12 to gauge where the Huskies will be later in the season.


Toughest: at Gonzaga (Nov. 21), Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Orlando)
Next toughest: TCU (Nov. 24), UTEP (Dec. 21)
The rest: CSU Bakersfield (Nov. 8), Lamar (Nov. 16), Pepperdine (Dec. 15), at Idaho (Dec. 7), vs. San Francisco State (Dec. 18 in Kennewick, Wash.), Mississippi Valley State (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale: 4 -- The Cougars play two of their rivalry games on the road at the Zags and in Moscow, Idaho. The Old Spice Classic could be a breakthrough for Wazzu with a rebuilding Butler team in the first round. Get that win and it's a likely shot at Oklahoma State in Round 2. The TCU home game could be a sneaky spot on the schedule, wedged in between Gonzaga and the Orlando trip.
So ESPN’s College GameDay slate for 2013-14 is a beast.

There’s nostalgia, a chance at history, a few classic rivalries and a couple of meetings that could determine the hierarchy in top conferences.

The schedule, released by ESPN on Wednesday morning, is a tantalizing one for college basketball fans.

This is a stacked card without any filler, beginning with the Jan. 18 kickoff featuring La Salle vs. Temple at the Palestra. It should be a strong opening for GameDay, which will position its high-tech gadgets and cameras throughout a building that was constructed in the 1920s for the Big 5 rivalries in Philly. Perfect blend of the past and present. And that’s what preserves this game’s traditions.

Also, Digger Phelps, who is now healthy after a battle with bladder cancer, will be back with Rece Davis, Jay Bilas and Jalen Rose to enjoy this travel schedule:

2014 College GameDay Schedule

Jan. 18: Morning Show – Temple vs. La Salle (The Palestra); Evening - Louisville at UConn

Jan. 25: Michigan at Michigan State

Feb. 1: Duke at Syracuse

Feb. 8: Gonzaga at Memphis

Feb. 15: Florida at Kentucky

Feb. 22: Two options: Arizona at Colorado OR UCLA at Stanford

March 1: Kansas at Oklahoma State

March 8: North Carolina at Duke

Well, where should we begin? Here are a few thoughts on the GameDay schedule …

-- I think the most interesting game on the slate is the one that could shatter an NCAA record. Syracuse-Duke on Feb. 1 in the Carrier Dome should be a great welcome party for the Orange in its inaugural year in the ACC. And if the prognosticators are correct, it could break a record for on-campus attendance – assuming officials finalize plans to move the court to the center of the dome for the matchup. Officials: Please make this happen. Thanks.

Syracuse’s matchup against Georgetown in February, the final Big East meeting between the two teams, established the current NCAA on-campus attendance record (35,012).

But this goes beyond history. Both squads could be ranked in the top 10 entering the 2013-14 season. Multiple NBA prospects will be on the floor, including C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant, Rasheed Sulaimon and Jabari Parker. And Coach K vs. Boeheim doesn’t hurt the matchup’s appeal.

-- There’s been a lot of offseason trash talk between Michigan and Michigan State fans. On Jan. 25, the two national title contenders will begin to settle things when they compete at the Breslin Center in East Lansing. The Wolverines reached last season’s national title game. Michigan State will return the bulk of its team from last season. On paper, they’re even, in my opinion. Can’t wait to see this war.

-- And defending national champ Louisville will get a slot in a game at Connecticut on Jan. 18, the second matchup of GameDay’s opening slate. It will also be Louisville’s first and last appearance as a member of the new American Athletic Conference, which will soon become its former league as it moves to the ACC in 2014.

-- Andrew Wiggins, are you ready for GameDay? The crew will be in Stillwater, Okla., March 1 for Kansas at Oklahoma State. If these two teams live up to the hype, this game could play a pivotal role in the Big 12 title race. Same for Florida at Kentucky on Feb. 1 in the SEC. Yes, the Wildcats have the best recruiting class in history. But the Gators could snatch the crown, especially if Chris Walker is eligible.

-- Gonzaga will attempt to boost its 2-5 record against Memphis when the teams meet on Feb. 8. This has turned into a fun series over the past decade and the basketball-rabid fans of Memphis will have the FedExForum roaring for GameDay.

-- Ah yes, and the slate ends with one of the greatest rivalries in sports, North Carolina at Duke on March 8.

College GameDay just dropped the mic.

Feel free to get excited.
The Big 12 may have a reputation as a football conference, but the league’s presence in the NBA is glaring. Texas product Kevin Durant is arguably one of the three best players in the game along with LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Kansas’ Paul Pierce is a future Hall of Famer while Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) and LaMarcus Aldridge (Texas) should be stars for years to come. Mario Chalmers -- the starting point guard for the NBA title-favorite Miami Heat -- played at Kansas.

Here’s a look at the 10 Big 12 products who have enjoyed the most successful pro careers since 1989, the year the NBA draft was whittled down to two rounds. [Editor's note: The Big 12 didn't begin play until 1996, but we are counting the draftees who played from 1989-96 at schools that eventually formed the Big 12 as well as any player who played in the Big 12 but whose school eventually left for another conference.]

[+] EnlargeKevin Durant and Kobe Bryant
Noah Graham/Getty ImagesKevin Durant, right, is a four-time NBA All-Star.
1. Kevin Durant, Texas: The three-time NBA scoring champion resides in the highest pantheon of superstars in the league. Durant has been a first-team All-NBA selection each of the past four seasons, averaging 27.7 points a game or better each year. Durant signed a five-year, $86 million contract with Oklahoma City before the 2010-11 season and led the Thunder to the NBA Finals the following year. He recently donated $1 million toward tornado recovery efforts in Moore, Okla.

2. Paul Pierce, Kansas: Nicknamed “The Truth,” Pierce has averaged 21.8 points a game over 14 NBA seasons, all with the Boston Celtics. He led the Celtics to the NBA title in 2008 and was named the Finals MVP. Pierce holds the franchise record for most 3-point field goals made and is one of just three players (Larry Bird and John Havlicek) to score more than 20,000 points with the Celtics alone. Pierce played three seasons at Kansas under Roy Williams and was an All-American as a junior.

3. Chauncey Billups, Colorado: The five-time All-Star has played for seven NBA teams, most notably the Detroit Pistons, whom he led to the NBA title in 2004. Billups earned Finals MVP honors that season after guiding the Pistons past the Los Angeles Lakers. Billups, who was drafted in 1997, is averaging 15.4 points a game in his career and 17.3 points a game in the playoffs. He is one of five Colorado players to have his number retired.

4. LaMarcus Aldridge, Texas: The former Longhorns forward has blossomed into one of the top 15 players in the league. He has made the last two All-Star Games and doesn’t appear to be slowing anytime soon. Aldridge has averaged 18.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game in six seasons and just over 21 points and eight boards the past two years. Aldridge played two seasons at Texas before entering the draft in 2006.

5. Blake Griffin, Oklahoma: The No. 1 pick in the 2009 NBA draft has certainly lived up to his billing. After missing the 2009-10 campaign with an injury, Griffin bounced back to average 20.4 points and 10.4 rebounds a game the past three years. He was a second-team All-NBA pick in 2012 and 2013. Griffin averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds a game as a sophomore at Oklahoma before entering the draft.

6. Mookie Blaylock, Oklahoma: Blaylock posted double-digit scoring averages in all but one of his 13 NBA seasons, seven of which were spent with the Atlanta Hawks. Blaylock averaged a career-high 9.7 assists a game in 1993-94 and posted his best scoring average (17.4 PPG) in 1996-97. He averaged 2.3 steals a game in his career and was twice selected to the NBA’s first-team all-defensive squad. He played his final game in 2002.

7. Kirk Hinrich, Kansas: The seventh overall pick in the 2003 draft has played eight of his 10 seasons with the Chicago Bulls. Hinrich has been a major factor for his team each season, never averaging less than 25 minutes per game. Although he has been slowed by injuries at times (particularly during the 2013 playoffs), he boasts career averages of 12.1 points and 5.4 assists a game.

8. David Wesley, Baylor: A 6-foot guard, Wesley went undrafted in 1993 but managed to play 14 years in the NBA. He averaged 12.5 points and 4.4 assists a game in his career. His best season came in 1996-97 with Boston, when he averaged 16.8 points and 7.3 assists while playing 40 minutes per game. His 11,842 career points rank second in NBA history (behind Moses Malone) among undrafted players.

9. Tony Allen, Oklahoma State: The former Cowboy has become one of the NBA’s top defenders in recent years -- and he may be the best. Allen has made the NBA’s first-team all-defensive squad the past two seasons. He averaged a career-high 26.7 minutes per game for Memphis in 2012-13 and set a personal best for rebounds with 4.6 per game.

10. Mario Chalmers, Kansas: The player who made one of the most dramatic shots in NCAA tournament history has developed a nice niche in the NBA, where he’s the point guard for a Heat squad that features LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. Chalmers, a second-round pick in 2008, boasts career averages of 8.4 points and 3.6 assists a game. He’s on the cusp of winning a second straight title with the Heat.

Other notables: All of these players have been productive in the NBA, including a few who almost cracked the top 10 (names in alphabetical order). On the cusp: These guys haven’t been in the league long enough to make the top 10 but appear to have bright futures (names in alphabetical order). * Note: Of the 26 names on these lists, nine are from Kansas, five are from Texas, three are from Oklahoma State, two are from Colorado, two are from Missouri, and two are from Oklahoma. Baylor, Iowa State and Kansas State boast one player each.
1. The SEC is constantly looking for consistency as a league in college basketball; football has never been the issue. Kentucky and Florida are regular national players, but the rest of the league has struggled. One thing it needs is a destination for its conference tournament. Commissioner Mike Slive told reporters at the SEC meetings in Destin, Fla., Tuesday that there was a unanimous vote to put the tournament in one location, with reports calling Nashville, Tenn., the likely destination. Perfect. The SEC needs to grow the tournament in one spot. Nashville can support it locally, and it's close to Vanderbilt, Tennessee and, of course, Kentucky, and not far from Arkansas, if the Hogs were to re-emerge as a player. Nashville is also a destination city in the Southeast. The SEC tournament is slated for Nashville in 2015, '16 and '19; the 2014 edition will be at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. Putting the tournament back in an NBA/NHL-size arena makes more sense, since it should be more intimate. The Big East had and will continue to have Madison Square Garden. The Pac-12 is trying to make Las Vegas its tourney home. The Big 12 has a good thing going with a rotation of Kansas City. Mo., and Dallas, while the Big Ten is doing it right with Chicago and Indianapolis. The ACC had Greensboro as its home, outside of a few years when the event rotated elsewhere, but that league is changing, so spreading out to the Northeast will work given new membership. But the SEC can't take its show on the road as much. Having one home would definitely help the conference tournament grow.

2. Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn handed in his resignation, and while the football program has struggled, Bohn hit a home run on his basketball hire. Bohn took a chance when he hired Tad Boyle, a former Kansas player, from nearby Northern Colorado. Boyle coached the Bears for four years, reaching the CIT in his final year. The big state schools don't usually look to a lesser-known state school to raise a program's profile -- yet Boyle has turned the Buffs into a major player in the West and in the Pac-12. The Buffs have gone to the NIT semifinals, won a Pac-12 tournament and a game in the NCAA tournament, then got back to the NCAAs last season. Basketball is a happening in Boulder now. The buzz is real. So while Bohn might have had his faults and the football program can be put atop the list, he got basketball right and should be given credit for taking a chance on Boyle. Boyle returned the loyalty by staying in Boulder this past spring when he could have pursued other opportunities.

3. Missouri coach Frank Haith took in Baylor transfer Deuce Bello for two years; the guard must sit out a year before playing. The Tigers have found a way to benefit from being in Big 12 territory but playing in the SEC. Missouri can be a home for wayward transfers who don't want to leave the area but can still play in a different conference. It will be interesting to track how often Missouri gets a transfer from the Big 12. Haith has gone with transfers quite a bit since taking over in Columbia two years ago. He'll likely continue on that path, with transfers complementing high school recruits.

3-point shot: ACC and MSG?

May, 16, 2013
1. The ACC coaches want to get the conference tournament in Madison Square Garden and discussed it at length during the league meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., on Tuesday and Wednesday. But whether or not they can pull that off is out of their control. MSG has long wanted a regular tenant, based on the busy March schedule with outside events, as well as primary hosts the Rangers and Knicks. The ACC is reviewing MSG's deal with the new Big East. MSG is unlikely going to go with a conference that would only make a cameo in the building every so often. The ACC is not going to move the conference tournament out of North Carolina (Greensboro or Charlotte) for more than one year every three or four years. If MSG wanted to maximize the opportunity it has in front of it then it should get the Big East to move its tournament to early in championship week and take the ACC the latter part of the week. If not, then the ACC has to see if it can wedge its way into the Barclays Center in Brooklyn around the A-10, or push the A-10 to play earlier in the week. Meanwhile, as expected, C-USA voted Wednesday at its league meetings to have all 16 teams go to the 2014 C-USA tournament in El Paso.

2. Valparaiso picked up a key big man in Alabama 7-foot transfer Moussa Gueye. Gueye, according to Valpo coach Bryce Drew, can play immediately. Gueye originally committed to the Crusaders before going to Alabama. Gueye blocked 52 shots last season for the Tide. He'll be a major distraction for teams in the Horizon League and give the defending conference champs quite a frontline with 6-9 Bobby Capobianco, 6-8 Rice transfer David Chadwick and 6-10 big man Vashil Fernandez.

3. Colorado and Harvard have agreed to play in Boulder (contract still being signed) as the Crimson make their way to Anchorage, Alaska. The Crimson desperately needed another quality game on the schedule. The Crimson have quality local games at UConn and at home against UMass and BC. But the Great Alaska Shootout lost its other star power team when Iowa backed out of the event to go to Atlantis. Playing Fordham, BU, Northeastern, Rice on the road or Howard and Vermont at home and against Holy Cross at TD Banknorth Garden won't deliver the necessary power-rating pop. Harvard has a Top 25 team and needs as many tests as possible before Ivy League play, where their power rating will drop. Colorado coach Tad Boyle once again is scheduling up. The Buffaloes already had Kansas at home and Oklahoma State at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as headline games.
1. Colorado didn't burn any bridges when it left the Big 12 and the Buffaloes are taking advantage of the relationships to schedule quality nonconference games for a team that should make the NCAA tournament in 2014. The Buffaloes already get Kansas in the return game of a home-and-home series with their former Big 12 rival. Colorado coach Tad Boyle then searched for an opponent to play at the MGM Grand -- site of the Pac-12 tournament -- on Dec. 20. Boyle locked in Oklahoma State, a team likely to be picked to win the Big 12. The Buffaloes now have the potential to have two top 10-15 nonconference games by scheduling KU and OSU. The Buffs already had scheduled Front Range games against Wyoming at home and Colorado State and Air Force on the road -- both extremely difficult stops. Boyle said he's trying to add one more neutral site game and one more home-and-home series as well as two other guaranteed games. Meanwhile, the Buffs, who lost Andre Roberson early to the NBA draft, are getting great reviews on incoming freshmen Jaron Hopkins and Dustin Thomas.

2. Oregon is getting creative with its schedule for a team that should be, like Colorado, in the upper half of the Pac-12 in 2014. Oregon coach Dana Altman said the Ducks have signed up with a new home-and-home series with Ole Miss, starting in Oxford. That game should have some sensational guards with Ole Miss' Marshall Henderson and the Ducks' backcourt of Dominic Artis and Damyean Dotson. Oregon is also playing Illinois in the Rose Garden in Portland with a return game the following season at the United Center in Chicago. BYU is also coming to Eugene. This schedule gives the Ducks bubble teams to start the season. The Ducks' willingness to go to Oxford should be applauded since few teams look to play the Rebels at home. This is a win-win for both schools.

3. An attorney who specializes in NCAA cases said late Monday night that it would be impossible for any school to influence and/or police the behavior of an extended family or coach of a student athlete. The school is supposed to promote compliance to the player and his immediate family. But the Ben McLemore case is an example of how hard it would be to check on whether a third-party is profiting to steer a client to an agent without the player coming forward that he was on the take, too. But having the NCAA investigate is still never a good sign because they can find information relative to the case that can spur other issues. "You never want the enforcement staff to look at you,'' said the attorney. "But this isn't a case of a recruiting violation. It's hard to say in this case that Kansas should be expected to police and monitor the actors in this case.''
1. Minnesota coveted VCU’s Shaka Smart, but his former boss, current Golden Gophers athletic director Norwood Teague, couldn’t convince Smart to come to the Twin Cities (he should know Smart is loyal to VCU) for the head-coaching job from which Tubby Smith was just fired. According to sources, the Gophers have now turned their attention to Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg and Butler’s Brad Stevens. We’ll see, but I’ll be shocked if either were to go to Minnesota. Hoiberg is the Mayor in Ames (it's his alma mater) and has Iowa State in a good place after back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances. If Hoiberg were to leave for Minnesota, the NBA's Timberwolves, not the Gophers, would make more sense. I can’t see Stevens bolting, either, with how much he loves the Butler way and working for AD Barry Collier. Stevens can have a lifetime contract at Butler, much like Mark Few has at Gonzaga. If they can't convince either of these two, the Gophers may make a play for Cincinnati’s Mick Cronin. But Cronin is from Cincinnati and loves his gig, too. The only reason he might listen is if he sees the need to go to a school in a more stable conference.

2. NC State has made it clear that coach Mark Gottfried hasn’t heard anything from UCLA. Athletic director Debbie Yow also is quick to remind everyone of the $3.75 million buyout in Gottfried’s contract, which she terms non-negotiable. Much as he got many in the Research Triangle to warm to NC State, Gottfried would fit at UCLA. But it would be too hard for UCLA to pry him out of Raleigh. Multiple sources continue to think the Bruins may have to go with an NBA coach. But there are other options out there -- Washington’s Lorenzo Romar, a former UCLA assistant, hasn’t been contacted; apparently neither has Colorado’s Tad Boyle, who has recruited Los Angeles well. USC, meanwhile, might end up going with a quality coach, albeit not a huge name. Remember, Oregon didn’t get its first choice, but did land a big-time talent in Dana Altman. It can be done.

3. Hofstra athletic director Jeff Hathaway has made it clear he wants a current head coach for its vacancy, according to sources, making it seem more realistic he would lean toward coaches like Iona’s Tim Cluess and/or Tom Moore of Quinnipiac. Quality openings like Old Dominion and Siena remain. Meanwhile, sources close to former UCLA coach Ben Howland anticipate he’ll sit out next season rather than take a job.