College Basketball Nation: Flip Pressey

Editor’s note: Each week, 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.

Yes, Josiah Turner is gone. But Solomon Hill and Nick Johnson are back. A healthy Kevin Parrom should help, too.

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 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.

As for the freshmen, Kaleb Tarczewski, a skilled 7-footer, and power forward Grant Jerrett are top-10 prospects. Brandon Ashley is a 6-8 forward with finesse. He’s top-20.

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.

A closer look at the CBE Classic

November, 21, 2011
KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- California, Missouri, Notre Dame and Georgia enter this week’s CBE Classic with a combined record of 13-0. But without any head-turning wins on their résumé, it’s tough to get a feel for just how good these teams are.

We’ll certainly know more after what promises to be an entertaining two nights of basketball at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, beginning at 7:30 ET tonight with Notre Dame-Mizzou and then Cal-UGA. Here are answers to four questions hovering over the teams in this season’s field:

How different will Notre Dame look with Tim Abromaitis in the lineup?
The NCAA forced Abromaitis to sit out the Fighting Irish’s first four games because he participated in two exhibitions three seasons ago before redshirting. Notre Dame managed to go 4-0 without its star, although the only quality win was against Detroit. With Abromaitis in the lineup, the Irish should be an upper echelon Big East team. He averaged 15.4 points per game last season and 16.1 ppg in 2009-10.

Has Frank Haith put his stamp on Missouri’s program?
It wouldn’t be fair to expect the Tigers to be operating in midseason form just three games into the season. But it will be interesting to see how many changes Haith has made to a team that was known for its 40 Minutes of Hell defense under former coach Mike Anderson, who left for Arkansas in the offseason. Undersized Missouri has four guards (Marcus Denmon, Flip Pressey, Kim English and Michael Dixon) scoring in double figures, while one big man (Ricardo Ratliffe) plays more than 12 minutes per game.

Is Cal legit?
The Golden Bears are ranked No. 18 in the new coaches poll -- and some feel that might be too low. Allen Crabbe, Jorge Gutierrez and Harper Kamp all played key roles for a team that improved dramatically throughout the course of last season. Minnesota transfer Justin Cobbs is fitting in nicely, averaging 9.0 points and 4.3 assists in three games. With UCLA in a freefall and Arizona and Washington still trying to work out the kinks, Cal is emerging as a heavy favorite to win the Pac-12 conference.

How does Kentavious Caldwell-Pope stack up against some of the country’s other top freshmen?
The 6-foot-4 Georgia guard is having to adapt to the college level quickly. Caldwell-Pope -- the most highly-touted signee in Mark Fox’s tenure -- ranks second on the team in scoring (13.3 points) through three games and is playing 29.7 minutes per contest, partly because one of last season’s stars, Travis Leslie, left early for the NBA draft. Georgia is 3-0 after victories against South Dakota State, Bowling Green and Wofford, so Caldwell-Pope’s first true tests will come this week.

Notre Dame over Missouri
Cal over Georgia

Cal over Notre Dame