College Basketball Nation: Georgetown Hoyas

Can Josh Smith finally make good?

October, 24, 2013
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It was a boon to Georgetown fans, a surprise to pretty much everyone else, and a frustratingly timed breaking news alert for a college hoops writer who had just huddled inside a small rock venue in search of chill vibes: On Wednesday night, Georgetown announced that the NCAA had cleared UCLA transfer Josh Smith to play immediately, beginning with the Hoyas' season opener against Oregon in Seoul, South Korea.

"Surprise" doesn't really go far enough. Simply put, there was almost no precedent for Smith -- who played six games in 2012-13, his final season at UCLA -- to earn immediate eligibility. Smith didn't fit within any traditional legislative relief (or "hardship waiver" archetype. The Kent, Wash., native wasn't transferring to be closer to home, or care for an ill family member. The NCAA has restricted players or wiped entire seasons of eligibility off the board for far less -- long-lost preseason participation has frequently been enough to do the trick. And while the situation at UCLA in Ben Howland's final year was no doubt less than conducive to Smith's development, he didn't leave after his coach was fired, or in the wake of some NCAA sanctions. He left after the first six games of his junior campaign.

ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported Wednesday that the waiver was granted thanks to a combination of "NCAA's fear" and "weight issues/Howland treatment." Why would a player who played in six regular-season games not lose at least a semester of eligibility -- or at least have to wait an extra few months -- as pretty much every other similar transfer has? Because the NCAA is scared of criticism? Because he has struggled with his weight? Because his former coach discarded him? I'm sympathetic to all of that -- and I think college players should be able to transfer with far fewer restrictions and wait times than currently exist — but that doesn't make the ruling consistent with any past precedent. What about every kid in the past five years with a legitimate appeal who was denied on technicality? Is the NCAA really that rattled?

Anyway, any furor over the decision doesn't matter now. Frankly, it might never matter -- not unless Smith has an even bigger surprise in store.

The ballad of Josh Smith has been the same lyrics, sung to the same tune, since as far back as 2007, when Smith was a promising but slightly oversized high school sophomore. He has always wowed scouts with his actual basketball skills: soft hands, quick feet, good touch around the rim. The only issue was his weight. It never came down. Indeed, under Howland, it went up, and even when Smith made it clear to the media he understood why he had to get in shape once and for all, he still never really made progress. At some point, UCLA just stopped updating his player profile dimensions.

Thus far, Georgetown has listed Smith at 350 pounds. He has two years remaining. John Thompson III has said Smith needs to "maintain a high level of commitment on and off the court," and if he does, Thompson will have a place for him. Not only do the Hoyas need another big body, period. Thompson is also far more flexible with his offensive system -- to the point that he is openly bristling against it being called the "Princeton offense" -- than many assume. If Smith is a viable addition to the Hoyas' frontcourt, Thompson would love to run sets through a post scorer with the kind of ball skills Smith has to offer. He has done so in the past: In 2011-12, center Henry Sims led the Hoyas in assist rate (27.3 percent); in 2009-10, 6-foot-11 forward Greg Monroe performed the same function.

The template is there. The opportunity is ripe. But until Smith answers the core question of his basketball career -- but can he stay on the floor? -- the impact of another inexplicable NCAA decision will be solely reserved for the theoretical.

The nonconference games we'd love to see

September, 13, 2013
9/13/13
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We’ve officially judged and juried every nonconference schedule.

Kudos to the teams that had the nerve to schedule bravely. Your just rewards could come in March, when the selection committee recognizes the merits of playing tough opponents, even if there’s a risk of a loss.

And shame on those who scheduled meekly. Enjoy the NIT.

Now, it’s time to play Armchair Scheduler -- or King/Queen of the Basketball Universe, whichever title floats your boat -- and offer up 15 nonconference games that won’t be played this year, but we wish would be:

Kansas vs. Missouri: Let’s just file this under an annual request. One of the greatest rivalries in college basketball ought to be played this year, next year and every year. We don’t care who left what conference. We don’t care who’s angry. This is like two divorcing parents sparring over the china with the kids stuck in the middle. Here the two schools’ fan bases and fans of the game in general are the kids. So hire a good mediator, work this out and play ball.

Georgetown vs. Syracuse: See Kansas-Missouri argument above. The two teams here at least have agreed that continuing the rivalry at some point is a good idea and it appears a multiyear contract is imminent, but there’s nothing yet on the schedule. Let’s fix that. Soon.

Kentucky vs. Indiana: Ibid. Or is it op. cit.? Whatever, reference the Kansas-Missouri, Georgetown-Syracuse arguments cited above. Two states separated by a river. Great rivalry. Lousy excuses. Figure it out.

North Carolina vs. Raleigh News & Observer: The Tar Heels’ crimes, misdeeds and lack of punishment have been well documented in the news media, but nowhere as thoroughly and as well as at the local newspaper. The staff at the N&O has been relentless and thorough in its coverage. We suggest a game of H-O-R-S-E (with the African-American studies department excused from judging) at the Newseum to settle this once and for all.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Wiggins
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsEveryone wants to see Kansas' Andrew Wiggins, the nation's top-ranked recruit, square off against the best competition.
Wichita State vs. VCU: Both come into the season as the smaller-budgeted darlings (they’re not mid-majors, so we have to retire that term), each with a Final Four berth in its hip pocket. Both have extremely talented teams coming back; both play nasty defense, albeit in different ways. The two on the same court, as has been the case several times over the past decade, would've been a ton of fun to watch this season.

Harvard vs. Duke: Smart school versus smart school. Mentor versus mentee. Easy storylines for reporters. What’s not to like about this matchup? Not to mention it would feature two top-25 teams and give the Crimson a chance to show how good they really are.

Kansas vs. Kentucky: Yes, we will get to enjoy Kansas (Andrew Wiggins) versus Duke (Jabari Parker) in Chicago, but we’re selfish. We’d like to see Wiggins go up against Kentucky, one of the schools he spurned. Not to mention it might be fun witnessing what could essentially be a freshman All-American game, with Wiggins, the Harrison twins, James Young, Julius Randle and Joel Embiid together on one floor.

Florida Gulf Coast vs. Georgetown: Let’s see if the slipper still fits when last season’s Cinderella goes rematch against its Madness victims, the Hoyas. Georgetown doesn’t have Otto Porter anymore and Greg Whittington is hurt, but hey, Dunk City lost its drum major when Andy Enfield headed to USC. Seems about even.

Michigan vs. Notre Dame: No one would dare call Mike Brey a chicken, would they? The two schools called the football rivalry quits this year amid acrimony and an endgame Wolverine chicken dance, but maybe the basketball schools can extend the olive branch and play for the first time since 2006.

Michigan State vs. Duke: Tom Izzo may not want to see the Blue Devils very often -- he’s 1-7 against Duke in his tenure -- but this game never disappoints. The two schools have met nine times and only twice, in 2003 and in 1958, has it been a blowout. The two have gone head-to-head over top recruits, including Jabari Parker, and come into the season as top-10 locks.

Memphis vs. Arizona: Josh Pastner revisits his coaching roots in a game that will answer the biggest question facing the Wildcats -- how good is point guard T.J. McConnell? If the Duquesne transfer can handle the Tigers’ onslaught of Joe Jackson, Geron Johnson, Chris Crawford and Michael Dixon, he can handle everything.

Louisville vs. Oklahoma State: You like good guard play? Imagine this one. Russ Smith, Chris Jones, Terry Rozier (and maybe Kevin Ware) against Marcus Smart, Markel Brown and incoming freshman Stevie Clark. The coaches would be miserable -- with Rick Pitino going up against his own beloved point guard, Travis Ford -- but the rest of us would enjoy it tremendously.

Oregon vs. Creighton: This game stacks up on merit, not just on the storyline of Dana Altman facing his old squad. With Doug McDermott back in the fold, the Bluejays are legit. Their schedule is less so, a sort of meandering plunder of nonconference nothingness. Adding the Ducks, a team Altman has reconstructed, and his impressive backcourt would be helpful. And OK, old coach/old school is fun.

New Mexico vs. Florida: The Gators already have a pretty impressive nonconference slate, but hey, what’s one more? This one would be a nice tussle between pretty skilled, albeit different, big men in Alex Kirk and Patric Young. Kirk enjoyed a breakout season last year, but facing Young would be a real test of the 7-footer’s abilities.

Ole Miss vs. Ohio State: Why? Because it would be nice to watch Aaron Craft hush Marshall Henderson (presuming his indefinite suspension is lifted) once and for all.


Just how powerful is conference realignment?

In a sports world full of clumsy, inane analogies to armed conflict, the Border War -- the centurylong rivalry between Kansas and Missouri -- legitimately deserved its designation. The Jayhawks and Tigers first met on the gridiron in 1891, just 36 years after a perfectly real, horribly violent border war broke out between pro-slavery Missouri and abolitionist Kansas, as The New York Times recounts:
In 1855, Missourians crossed the border in droves to vote in the first Kansas election, and 6,000 votes were somehow cast by a total voting population of 2,905 to elect a proslavery government. New Englanders opposed to slavery organized to send settlers, money and guns to the antislavery residents there. Amos Lawrence, a New England textile magnate whose name was given to the city where the University of Kansas now stands, helped ship hundreds of rifles to aid the fight against the “border ruffians” from Missouri and the proslavery settlers in Kansas.
It did not take long for violence to erupt. On May 21, 1856, parts of Lawrence were destroyed when Missourians marched on the town with five cannons in tow. A day later, Senator Charles Sumner of Massachusetts was beaten almost to death on the floor of the United States Senate by a Southern congressman upset by Sumner’s speech, “The Crime Against Kansas.” A week later, John Brown and several abolitionists hacked five proslavery Kansans to death with swords.

Today, when you check in to a hotel in Kansas City, those senseless horrors are impossible to fathom. But the up-close-and-personal violence -- neighboring cities burning, rival bands of "Jayhawkers" fighting to the death, dignitaries beaten to a pulp on the Senate floor -- is really only a handful of generations removed from present day. People still remember. They just express themselves differently.

For example: In April 2012, the morning of Kansas' national title showdown with Kentucky, the morning announcements at an elementary school in tiny Lee's Summit, Mo. -- a 20-minute drive from the Kansas border -- included the Jayhawks' fight song. In roughly 99 percent of the country, that would be seen as a small, token gesture toward regional sporting spirit. In Lee's Summit, it was a slap in the face:
“As a parent of two and a taxpaying resident of the Lee’s Summit R–7 School District, I am shocked and disappointed that there was an apparent attempt to indoctrinate Lee’s Summit school children to be KU fans at Trailridge Elementary this week,” said Brian Yates, a former state representative and graduate of the University of Missouri, at the time. “Playing the KU fight song or any college fight song over the intercom in a publicly funded elementary school is unacceptable.”

Indoctrinate! Another example: In 2011, the town of Osceola, Mo., passed a citywide resolution condemning the Jayhawks' nickname, which it saw as a "celebration of this murderous gang of terrorists by an institution of ‘higher education’" in a "brazen and malicious manner."

A couple of weeks ago, apropos of nothing, a Lawrence resident who had stumbled upon that old school-announcements chestnut sent me an email. He felt obligated to explain:
People that have not grown up in this area have no real understanding of this rivalry between MU and KU. To quantify it with words just diminishes the intensity of it.
This was never a sports rivalry. This was hatred that is taught and bred into the youth on both sides of the border. […] The memories are vivid and each side has their version of what "really" happened.
People along the border communities of Kansas and Missouri murdered each other at will. Bands of men from Missouri would ride into Kansas and indiscriminately kill men, women and children and so did bands of men from Kansas as well as Union forces into Missouri. This didn't happen once or twice. This occurred regularly for 8 years before the Civil War and then throughout the Civil War. It doesn't matter which side won, the Union or the Confederacy. For us it never ended.
We don't like them and they don't like us. That's the way it was, is, and will be.

In 2012, after more than 120 years of expressing their fans' intense distaste for the Kansas Jayhawks at least once a year, the Missouri Tigers left the Big 12 for the SEC. The two played three more times in the 2011-12 season, each game more thrilling than the last. And then, just like that, it was over. Kansas basketball coach Bill Self, his blue-blooded program having been made suddenly vulnerable by Big 12 turmoil, loudly proclaimed that he didn't see the need to play Missouri anymore.
"I will say this," Self said in 2011, when Missouri announced its impending move. "The media is not going to dictate who we play. I’ll dictate who we play as long as I’m coaching here. I have no ill will toward Missouri at all, but to do something at a time that could be so damaging and hurtful to a group, I can’t see us just taking it and forgetting."

The two schools haven't played since. There are no future plans to do so. The Border War, at least for basketball purposes, is dead. How powerful is conference realignment? That's how.

Syracuse and Georgetown never shared that kind of immense historical baggage. (Thankfully, because sheesh.) The SU-GU distaste was sparked in purely sporting terms: When John Thompson Jr. "closed" Manley Field House in 1980, ending the Orangemen's 57-game win streak in the last game in the building, Syracuse fans boiled over. Their hatred of Georgetown might not have been preceded by a decade of Civil War-era violence, but it is a product of shared cultural memory. No one talks about Manley Field House like that.

In the 30 years since, both programs have won titles and been consistent national powers. Thompson's mid-'80s teams brimmed with "Hoya Paranoia"; Jim Boeheim's 2-3 zone made him the second-winningest coach of all time; and the rivalry blossomed into the Big East's best and most reliable fixture, the marquee matchup in the country's marquee hoops attraction.

In 2013, those two teams played their last game as co-members of the Big East. Syracuse was headed to the ACC, set to be part of a new marquee basketball league; Georgetown had found refuge in the new Big East, a smaller, basketball-only assemblage. For the most part, conference realignment avoided drastic changes to the status quo. It hasn't been as bad, or as crazy, as we all thought. But it did kill the Border War. Now, it had taken Syracuse-Georgetown, too.

That's why this news is so very exciting. Syracuse and Georgetown are in talks to keep their rivalry alive, with the most prominent option being a 10-year, rotating home-and-home contract being enthusiastically pushed by Boeheim and Syracuse athletic director Daryl Gross. There are still plenty of details to iron out, of course. Georgetown still needs to accept and hasn't commented. There are modern, real-world concerns to attend to: Will the logistics of each team's schedule line up? Does Georgetown get as much out of the game as Syracuse, which very much enjoys the chance to play in downtown Washington, one of the hottest recruiting hotbeds in the country?

But all of that stuff is minor, even petty. The fact is, Syracuse and Georgetown have a chance to do what Missouri and Kansas couldn't: keep a storied, cherished rivalry alive in the face of shifting conference allegiances. They have a chance to set a precedent for what appears to be a future of pretty much nonstop conference changes. League affiliations might come and go, but rivalries deserve to stand the test of time.

Kansas and Missouri had that once. Syracuse and Georgetown, thankfully, are doing their best not to lose it.
This week, ESPN.com is breaking down the nonconference schedules of each team in nine of the nation's top leagues. Next up: the Big East.

BUTLER

Toughest: Old Spice Classic (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Orlando, Fla.), Purdue (Dec. 14 in Indianapolis)
Next toughest: Princeton (Nov. 16)
The rest: Lamar (Nov. 9), Vanderbilt (Nov. 19), at Ball State (Nov. 23), North Dakota (Dec. 7), Manchester (Dec. 9), at Evansville (Dec. 21), NJIT (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 4 -- This isn’t an overwhelming schedule for first-year coach Brandon Miller, but it’s not a complete cakewalk either -- especially since Roosevelt Jones is out for the year. The Old Spice Classic gives the Bulldogs some pop, with a potential date with Marcus Smart and Oklahoma State in the second round (with Washington State as the opener) or Memphis down the road.

CREIGHTON

Toughest: Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec.1 in Fullerton and Anaheim, Calif.)
Next toughest: at Saint Joseph’s (Nov. 16), California (Nov. 22), at Long Beach State (Dec. 3), Nebraska (Dec. 8)
The rest: Alcorn State (Nov. 8), UMKC (Nov. 11), Tulsa (Nov. 23), Arkansas-Pine Bluff (Dec. 17)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- The hefty Wooden Legacy gives the Bluejays a challenge. There’s a first-round date with Arizona State and Jahii Carson then possibly San Diego State and a potential matchup with either Marquette or Miami on the other side. But for a loaded lineup like Creighton has, I would have hoped to see a little more meat in the nonconference schedule.

DEPAUL

Toughest: CBE Classic (Nov. 25-26 in Kansas City, Mo.), Arizona State (Dec. 6)
Next toughest: at Northwestern (Dec. 27)
The rest: Grambling State (Nov. 9), Southern Miss (Nov. 13), Wright State (Nov. 16), at Milwaukee (Nov. 19), Oregon State (Dec. 1), Florida Atlantic (Dec. 12), Chicago State (Dec. 15), Houston Baptist (Dec. 18), at Illinois State (Dec. 22)

Toughness scale (1-10): 5 -- If this is the year the Blue Demons turn the corner, they will have earned their stripes. This is a decent schedule, thanks largely to an opening date with Final Four participant Wichita State in the semis of the CBE Classic. (Texas and BYU are on the other side.) Tussles with Arizona State and Northwestern also add some muscle.

GEORGETOWN

Toughest: Oregon (Nov. 8 in Seoul, South Korea), at Kansas (Dec. 21), 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)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Short of matching up with Kentucky in Kabul, I’m not sure how John Thompson III could have made his schedule much more daunting. From South Korea to Lawrence, with a date with Michigan State for added fun, that’s literally anyone anywhere. There’s also a pretty decent Puerto Rico Tip-Off field, with VCU, Michigan, Kansas State and Florida State.

MARQUETTE

Toughest: Ohio State (Nov. 16), New Mexico (Nov. 21), at Wisconsin (Dec. 7)
Next toughest: Arizona State (Nov. 25), Wooden Legacy (Nov. 28-Dec. 1 in Fullerton and Anaheim, Calif.)
The rest: Southern (Nov. 8), Grambling State (Nov. 12), New Hampshire (Nov. 21), IUPUI (Dec. 14), Ball State (Dec. 17), Samford (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 10 -- Love when a good team plays a good schedule. Buzz Williams has a delicious mix, traipsing across leagues (Big Ten, Pac-12 and Mountain West) and mixing in a decent tourney as well. The only oddity is that the Wooden Legacy title game might merely be a Big East preview, with Creighton and Marquette seemingly headed toward each other.

PROVIDENCE

Toughest: Kentucky (Dec. 1 in Brooklyn)
Next toughest: Boston College (Nov. 8), Paradise Jam (Nov. 22-25 in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands), UMass (Dec. 28)
The rest: Brown (Nov. 13), Marist (Nov. 16), Vermont (Nov. 18), Fairfield (Nov. 29), at Rhode Island (Dec. 5), Yale (Dec. 17), Maine (Dec. 21)

Toughness scale (1 to 10): 4 -- Yes, Kentucky is on the schedule, which is big, but one game does not a schedule make. The Paradise Jam is a bunch of meh, with Maryland and La Salle the only intriguing opponents available. The rest of the Friars’ schedule is just a trip through New England.

SETON HALL

Toughest: Coaches vs. Cancer (Nov. 22-23 in New York)
Next toughest: at Rutgers (Dec. 8)
The rest: Niagara (Nov. 9), Kent State (Nov. 13), at Mercer (Nov. 16), Monmouth (Nov. 18), Fairleigh Dickinson (Dec. 1), LIU Brooklyn (Dec. 5), NJIT (Dec. 10), St. Peter’s (Dec. 14), Eastern Washington (Dec. 22), Lafayette (Dec. 27)

Toughness scale (1 to 10): 2 -- If the Pirates beat Oklahoma in the Coaches vs. Cancer, they might face Michigan State. Or they might not. And that’s about all there is to like about this schedule.

ST. JOHN’S

Toughest: Wisconsin (Nov. 8 in Sioux Falls, S.D.), Syracuse (Dec. 15)
Next toughest: Bucknell (Nov. 19), Barclays Center Classic (Nov. 29-30 in Brooklyn)
The rest: Wagner (Nov. 15), Monmouth (Nov. 22), Longwood (Nov. 26), Fordham (Dec. 7), San Francisco (Dec. 18), Youngstown State (Dec. 21), Columbia (Dec. 28), Dartmouth (Jan. 18)

Toughness scale (1 to 10): 6 -- The Red Storm’s top two games are pretty good, and bonus points for playing the Badgers in Sioux Falls. After Penn State in Brooklyn, they face a decent test from either Ole Miss or Georgia Tech. The rest isn’t much to look at.

VILLANOVA

Toughest: Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in the Bahamas), at Syracuse (Dec. 28)
Next toughest: at Saint Joseph’s (Dec. 7), La Salle (Dec. 15), at Temple (Feb. 1)
The rest: Lafayette (Nov. 8), Mount St. Mary’s (Nov. 13), Towson (Nov. 17), Delaware (Nov. 22), Penn (Dec. 4), Rider (Dec. 21)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- To understand this ranking, you have to understand the Big Five. Even when the Philly schools are down, the games are brutal, and with La Salle, Penn and St. Joe’s on the uptick, the city series is a beast. Now mix in a Battle 4 Atlantis that opens with USC and then likely Kansas (with Tennessee, Iowa or Xavier as likely third opponents) plus a visit to the Carrier Dome and you have a solid slate for Jay Wright’s crew.

XAVIER

Toughest: Tennessee (Nov. 12), Battle 4 Atlantis (Nov. 28-30 in the Bahamas), Cincinnati (Dec. 14)
Next toughest: Alabama (Dec. 21)
The rest: Gardner-Webb (Nov. 8), Morehead State (Nov. 18), Miami (Ohio) (Nov. 20), Abilene Christian (Nov. 25), Bowling Green (Dec. 7), Evansville (Dec. 10), Wake Forest (Dec. 28)

Toughness scale (1-10): 8 -- Like Villanova, the Musketeers get a nice boost from playing in Atlantis, taking on a good Iowa team in the opening round. An on-the-rise Tennessee offers bonus points (and they could face the Vols for a second time in the Bahamas), as does the annual Crosstown Classic with the Bearcats.
1. Georgetown continues to come up with creative games on the schedule. The latest is the game against Michigan State on Feb. 1 at Madison Square Garden as part of a triple header. The other games will be St. John's against a Big East school to be named when the schedule comes out in the next few weeks and then the capper of Knicks-Heat. MLive.com first reported the game early Wednesday and multiple sources confirmed Georgetown will announce the game Thursday. This is the first meeting between the two schools since the 1986 NCAA tournament second-round game, won by Michigan State. This is a one-shot deal, though. There is no return for either team. The Hoyas continue to push scheduling in a new direction under John Thompson III. Georgetown will open the season against Oregon at Camp Humphreys outside of Seoul, South Korea, in the Armed Forces Classic. Georgetown then goes to Puerto Rico for arguably the best neutral-site tournament with Michigan, VCU, Florida State and Kansas State. The Hoyas also go to Kansas, a legitimate top five team.

2. Thompson III said it's unknown when Greg Whittington will return from an ACL injury. The Hoyas are under the assumption he won't play this season, but no one is ruling out that he could return at some point. "Some people come back in six months, some take a year," said Thompson III. "You have to figure, though, nine months if everything goes well." Whittington had to sit the second semester due to academics. But there are no longer issues with his eligibility, according to JT3.

3. ESPN and the ACC and Big 12 released the new Big Monday schedule for next season. With the Big East now on Fox Sports 1, the ACC was the natural replacement. But the influx of former Big East teams into the ACC will make some nights look like the traditional Big East Big Monday. Four of the eight games include a former Big East member. And one game, Notre Dame at Syracuse on Feb. 3, is a former Big East game. Virginia got three dates, including the first two. The Cavs should be an ACC top four contender with Joe Harris and Mike Tobey. But this was clearly a sign of respect by getting the Cavaliers that many high-profile games. It will be interesting to hear how the ACC coaches deal with what the Big East coaches dealt with for years -- the dreaded Saturday-Monday turnaround. The Jan. 27 Duke at Pitt game should go down as one of the best atmospheres at the Petersen Events Center. And the Syracuse at Maryland game on Feb. 24 is quite a swan song for the departing ACC member. But this game could resurface in future years as part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. Putting Kansas and Oklahoma State on four times and Baylor twice was the right amount for the top three Big 12 contenders.
Last week, Georgetown's athletics department released a statement informing its weary-eyed public that Jack, Jr.("J.J."), the bulldog mascot in training, would not in fact take the Hoyas mascot throne. Instead, according to a statement, considering the "hectic lifestyle" and "thousands of screaming fans" every mascot pup must deal with, the school had "determined that returning to a home environment is what is best for J.J." I wrote a quick tongue-in-check post about a bulldog turning down a lifestyle of fortune and fame, complete with forced Radiohead reference, and figured that would be that.

Not so much! Indeed, even last week, a controversy was already brewing. A story in The Hoya, Georgetown's student newspaper, was filled with wholly outraged quotes from student body leadership bemoaning both the sudden decision and the lack of transparency with which it was reached. That outrage was quickly accompanied by an open letter by Father Christopher Steck, the mascots' caretaker, who was reasoned and reflective (he admitted he was biased on the topic of J.J., which, awwwww) but clearly confused by the decision.

Now, a few days later, Steck has taken to the pages of the Hoya himself, writing in critical, stern terms about Georgetown's mascot throwdown:
Unfortunately for Jack and J.J., Healy [Hall, home to Georgetown's administrative offices] has been more enthusiastic about control than support. While Healy, no doubt, appreciates the mascot, I have not sensed a great deal of passion for him within its corridors. My one request to any administrator in Healy for $200 of funding was declined because, I was told, his unit was not involved in the mascot. (The university, by the way, does not provide any financial support for Jack and J.J.’s upkeep). Before J.J.’s arrival, a few reporters shared with me their puzzlement over the university’s ambivalence toward the mascot. I invited several Healy administrators to join me any time on a walk with J.J. so that they could meet him and see his interaction with children on campus — a cause for concern in Healy. All of them declined. A university spokesperson’s recent praise for the importance of having “no emotional attachment” in making decisions about the mascot was institutionally revealing, even if unwittingly so.

The fear here, it seems, is that Georgetown brass is plotting to either a) begin phasing out the live Hoyas mascot entirely, a practice that began when students pushed hard for it in 1999 or b) mitigate school liability by transitioning to a "rent-a-dog" model (when random ringer dogs are brought in for campus events for a day or two at a time). In its original statement, the school said it planned to continue the live mascot tradition, but Steck and more than a few Georgetown students seem worried that's just a cover. At the very least, as Steck writes, "if the mascot is to be an adequate symbol of Georgetown, decisions about him should reflect its rich, dialogical life" -- as opposed to being made unilaterally.

It would be easy to chalk this up to some good old-fashioned campus lather. There's nothing like a seemingly minor controversy to rile students active in the school government and newspaper; in case you hadn't noticed, college kids love to argue passionately about matters both small and large. Everyone is finding their voice, and this often produces hilarious results.

There's a good bit of that going on here, sure. (As I wrote last week: Is it November yet?) But at the heart of the matter, it's hard to fault the aggrieved parties for wanting their clear emotional investment in J.J. to come to some clear resolution. At the very least, they'd like some input on the matter. Silly as it may seem from the outside, people love their fuzzy mascots something fierce, and it's hardly surprising when a poorly explained decision coalesces that attachment into outrage.

I can already see how this ends: In a moving final courtroom scene, J.J. is asked to pick between his life as a mascot and his life sitting around being an awesome bulldog. Faculty members scowl on one side; students cheer on the other. As the final soundtrack flourish rises and swells, J.J. saunters over to his mascot uniform, pauses for a second, and lays down, panting. The crowd rushes the scene, lifting the little bulldog hero above their heads, and as we zoom in we see J.J. almost smile ... just before winking unmistakably at the camera.

Freeze frame, star wipe, roll credits. You're welcome, Hollywood.
If dogs were mentally capable of envisioning their dream job, mascot of a major university athletics program would have to be right near the top of the list. Not only are you well-fed and cared for, but you get loads of attention from a constant stream of new people. As the current caretaker of two labs, I can confirm the importance of both attention and new people. If the younger one had her druthers, she would meet and play with every person and fellow canine in the world at least once. You call this a job?

Alas, all dogs are not created alike. Most, but not all. Some don't want the celebrity, the fawning, the constant requests for photos. Some dogs don't want to perform. Some dogs just want a full bowl of food, a toy to chew on, a couple of walks, and approximately 22 hours of sleep per day. Some dogs just want the simple life.

Such, it seems, was the case for would-be Georgetown mascot Jack Jr. (J.J.), the Georgetown mascot-in-training at the school since 2012. In a release on its athletics web site today, the Hoyas announced that, after extending time with professional trainers, J.J. never truly embraced the fame and fortune associated with being the next Georgetown mascot. J.J. would prefer to kick it at home:
Since that time, J.J.’s caretaker and walkers have worked to orient him to campus and train him for mascot duties. We also worked with professional trainers to help J.J. learn about life on a busy college campus. Recognizing that the lifestyle of a mascot is exciting and hectic, involving many people, thousands of screaming fans, and regular appearances at events both on and off-campus, we wanted to ensure that our puppy would be happy with this unique lifestyle.

After 15 months of monitoring and training, in consultation with these experts and the breeder, we determined that returning to a home environment is what is best for J.J.

You other dogs out there might not understand it. Doesn't every dog want to be famous? Wasn't J.J. about to live the dream? How could he turn down all those scratches on the head -- a whole lifetime full of head-scratches! The glitz! The glamour! The staff of handlers! The expensive gift bags full of holistic treats! You threw it all away, J.J.! You threw away the dream!

No, dogs, that's your dream. It wasn't J.J.'s dream. That's not his journey. J.J.'s a simple dog. He doesn't need the flashing lights. He'll take the quiet life, a handshake of crude protein dog treats, and no alarms and no surprises. Silent.

(Oh, and in case you're wondering, Georgetown's former mascot, Jack Sr., will continue to live on campus, and Georgetown promised that the "cherished" bulldog mascot tradition will continue. You may now breathe easy.)

Update: Apparently there is some minor controversy afoot here. Today, the Hoya reported that J.J.'s handlers disagreed with the decision and were critical of its unilateral nature. Meanwhile, Reverend Christopher Steck, who lives and trains with the Georgetown mascots, composed an open letter on the matter: "The university's decision is a surprise and disappointment to me. I genuinely believe that J.J. would thrive as the next university mascot." Georgetown mascot Kremlinology! Is it November yet?

Count 'Em Down: Tumbling Teams

July, 25, 2013
7/25/13
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The following teams could tumble in 2013-14. Just so we’re clear: That potential “tumble” is based on last season’s position for every team listed. It doesn’t mean these squads will finish at the bottom of the standings, but I think they’ll fall in comparison to their respective peaks from last season.

Top 10 teams that will tumble in 2013-14:

10. Gonzaga: For the first time in school history, the Zags recorded a No. 1 ranking and a top seed in the Big Dance. Their early tournament exit ended their season on a sour note, but the program reached new heights in 2012-13. Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk comprised one of the toughest frontcourts in America. Harris (14.6 PPG, 7.4 RPG) was a rugged forward who had finesse and power. Olynyk (17.8 PPG, 7.3 RPG) was the best combo forward in America. He had an underrated post game too. The duo created matchup problems for every team they faced last season. And now both players are gone. Kevin Pangos and multiple members of a respectable backcourt are back, but that Olynyk-Harris combo was special. There’s still enough talent in Spokane to win the WCC and reach the NCAA tournament, but the Zags won’t be the national title contenders they appeared to be through the 2012-13 campaign.

9. Cincinnati: Coach Mick Cronin had one of the nation’s top backcourts last season. Now, two members of a trio that anchored his 22-win NCAA tournament team -- JaQuon Parker and Cashmere Wright -- are gone. Sean Kilpatrick, the team’s leading scorer, returns. But a Cincinnati squad that struggled with consistent scoring benefited from Parker’s and Wright’s ability to stretch the floor. Both shot better than 36 percent from behind the 3-point line. Kilpatrick could be a one-man show in 2013-14, but that’s not necessarily a good thing. The toughest void for the Bearcats (14th in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy) could be the defensive deficit created by the departure of Cheikh Mbodj (2.6 BPG). There are holes everywhere for this Bearcats squad.

8. Detroit: Ray McCallum Jr. turned down offers from powerhouse programs to play for his father, Ray McCallum Sr. With McCallum at point guard, Detroit reached the NCAA tournament in 2012 after the Titans won the Horizon League tournament. But he’s gone now. And he’s not the only key player that Detroit will miss. The Titans have lost their top four scorers from last season. Somehow, Detroit must find respectable offensive contributors who can make up for the loss of McCallum (18.7 PPG), Nick Minnerath (14.6 PPG), Jason Calliste (14.4 PPG) and Doug Anderson (12.1 PPG). McCallum could face his toughest season as a head coach in 2013-14.

7. San Diego State: It’s fair to say that San Diego State underachieved last season. The Aztecs finished in a tie for fourth in the stacked Mountain West Conference. Then they were stopped in the third round of the Big Dance by Florida Gulf Coast. Not a shameful showing, but their potential suggested that they had a higher ceiling. Well, that ceiling is lower now with the loss of four of the team’s top six scorers from last season. Jamaal Franklin and Chase Tapley were two of the Aztecs’ top defenders too. Franklin wasn’t the game’s most efficient player (3.4 TPG, 28 percent from the 3-point line), but he was the guy with the ball in his hands when the Aztecs needed a big play. Whom will they turn to next year? Steve Fisher seems to have more questions than answers right now.

6. Butler: Rotnei Clarke (16.9 PPG) and Andrew Smith (11.3 PPG) have moved on. That’s a challenge for the program because they formed a potent inside-outside combo. But Roosevelt Jones, Khyle Marshall and Kellen Dunham remain. So Butler can find buckets in 2013-14. The Bulldogs are on this list, however, because Brad Stevens will not be on the sideline next season. Brandon Miller has a strong pedigree. I don’t doubt his coaching acumen. But Stevens is making millions in the NBA because he has the rare ability to extract every ounce of talent from his players. At Butler, they were devoted to him and his system. That combination of buy-in and strategy led to amazing highs in recent years. Even though Miller is in the Butler family, this is still a transition. And it’s a transition without the mastermind who made Butler a household name. The Bulldogs may fall before they establish their footing under Miller.

5. Georgetown: First, Otto Porter turned pro. Then Greg Whittington tore an ACL, jeopardizing his status for next season. Yes, three starters from last season's squad return, and former UCLA standout Josh Smith will join the team at midseason. And that helps. Markel Starks' presence is a major boost for the program too. But who will create offensive opportunities for a team that registered just 64.6 PPG (247th nationally) with a lottery pick running the show? That number doesn’t tell the full story of Georgetown basketball in 2012-13. The Hoyas were fourth in adjusted defensive efficiency per Ken Pomeroy. But Porter’s versatility eased the defensive responsibilities of his teammates. With a healthy Whittington, however, the latter will be a minimal concern for John Thompson III’s program. But there’s no guarantee that Whittington will be ready in time to help Georgetown in 2013-14. And that’s a problem.

4. Indiana: Yogi Ferrell is back. That’s the good news for Tom Crean. The bad news? Cody Zeller and Victor Oladipo are in the NBA. Christian Watford and Jordan Hulls are gone too. Although Indiana entered last season as a preseason pick by many to win the national title, similar hype will not follow the Hoosiers into the 2013-14 season. They have three top-100 kids, including five-star recruit Noah Vonleh, in their incoming class. And multiple players who contributed in spurts last season will earn more minutes. So there’s enough talent in Bloomington to register another NCAA tournament bid. But the Hoosiers were the No. 1 team in America in multiple stretches last season. I can’t imagine the young program rivaling that effort next season.

3. Temple: Remember when Khalif Wyatt dropped 31 points in Temple’s win over NC State in the NCAA tournament? Remember when he did it again versus Indiana two days later? Wyatt’s offensive explosiveness helped Temple beat teams that were more talented than the Owls last season. He scored 33 points in his team’s win over Syracuse in December. He recorded 30 points when the Owls defeated VCU in early March. Now, Wyatt and sidekick Scootie Randall have left the stage. That’s a combined average of 31.8 PPG, 2.7 SPG and 6.1 APG.

2. Minnesota: Can a team that went 8-10 in the Big Ten tumble? Yep, especially if that team is implementing a new system with a limited talent pool. Andre Hollins and Austin Hollins could be all-Big Ten performers next season, but the void created when Trevor Mbakwe and Rodney Williams exhausted their eligibility will be a challenge for new coach Richard Pitino. Plus, Joe Coleman transferred from a team that reached the Big Dance and beat UCLA in the second round. Pitino’s fast-paced, pressure system could work in the Big Ten, but he needs the right pieces to make that happen. He just doesn’t appear to have them yet.

1. Miami: Last season, Miami had it all. The hoopla that followed the surging Hurricanes included courtside appearances by LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. It was a great ride for the program. But a new reality will soon take hold as Miami coach Jim Larranaga attempts to replace Shane Larkin, Julian Gamble, Kenny Kadji, Reggie Johnson, Trey McKinney Jones and Durand Scott. Those veterans were responsible for one of the ACC’s and the nation’s top defensive attacks (28th in adjusted defensive efficiency per KenPom.com). His rebuilding effort will commence in a league that will add Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame next season. Hard times ahead for the Hurricanes.
Editor's Note: Over two days, we're releasing the brackets/matchups for 11 of the top early-season events. Starting Wednesday at 10 a.m. ET, we'll unveil the final six: Charleston, 2K Sports, Diamond Head, CBE, Wooden and Maui. A thread of previews and info for all 11 tourneys can be found here.

Tournament bracket for the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Editor's Note: An earlier version of this bracket had a pair of incorrect matchups. We apologize for the mix-up.)

When and where: Nov. 21-22, 24 in San Juan, Puerto Rico

Initial thoughts: The bracket seems to grant Georgetown an easy path to the title game. Northeastern lost its top two scorers -- Joel Smith and Jonathan Lee -- from last season (29.9 PPG combined). And Kansas State is recovering from a tumultuous offseason that included the loss of Angel Rodriguez and Rodney McGruder. Georgetown’s opening-round opponent, Charlotte, had offensive issues last year (187th in adjusted offensive efficiency, per Ken Pomeroy) and now top scorer Chris Braswell is gone.

A title, however, is not a guarantee. The Hoyas will probably travel to San Juan without Greg Whittington, who recently tore his ACL. And the other side of the bracket is much tougher, even though Long Beach State is depleted after multiple offseason dismissals. Florida State struggled last season but the Seminoles were young so most of their roster returns, although they’ll miss Michael Snaer. Michigan is the obvious favorite. The Wolverines will be led by Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, a pair of players who would have been first-round draft picks last month had they decided to leave school after their team’s national title game loss to Louisville in April. Freshman Derrick Walton will probably follow Trey Burke as the team’s new point guard. He’ll be surrounded by a strong crew. VCU will be tough, too. The HAVOC defense helped VCU acquire the nation’s highest turnover rate last season. The Rams, however, lost point guard Darius Theus and Troy Daniels. Still, they haven’t lost much steam with a solid recruiting class and Florida State transfer Terrance Shannon in the mix now.

Things could get interesting on Friday in this tournament.

Matchup I can’t wait to see: Florida State has a lot to prove. Last season was a mess for Leonard Hamilton, who recently received a contract extension. His program has a chance, however, to make an early statement in the 2013-14 season with a win over a VCU squad that will be a Top 25 program entering the season. But Shaka Smart has some new faces, and his squad must identify a new leader now that Theus is gone.

[+] EnlargeMcGary/Robinson
Rick Osentoski/USA TODAY SportsMitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III could have been first-round NBA draft picks following Michigan's run to the national title game.
Potential matchup I can’t wait to see: Can you say rematch? The last time Michigan and VCU met, the Wolverines pummeled the Rams in the third round of the NCAA tournament. That 25-point victory was an embarrassment for a VCU squad that was completely out of rhythm from tipoff. But the Rams are deep again. And the Wolverines have a couple of potential lottery picks running the operation again. I’d love to see these two squads face off again in the semis.

Five players to watch:

Treveon Graham, VCU: The Rams are often praised for their defensive strengths. Last season, however, VCU proved its worth on offense, too -- averaging 78.0 points (11th in the nation). Graham, the team’s top scorer, was a catalyst. He averaged 15.1 PPG and 5.8 RPG. He also hit 36.6 percent of his 3-pointers. Graham doesn’t waste minutes, either. He had the Atlantic 10’s top offensive rating (118.1 per KenPom.com, among players who used at least 24 percent of their team’s possessions). Last season was a breakout campaign for this guy. If VCU reaches its ceiling, the 6-foot-5 guard/forward could earn All-American consideration.

Mitch McGary and Glenn Robinson III, Michigan: After the Wolverines rumbled to the national championship game in Atlanta, many expected McGary and Robinson to take their talents to the NBA. The two youngsters had a chance to turn pro and make millions. But their decision to return means that the Wolverines will enter the season as Big Ten contenders again. There’s a huge gap at PG, a spot that was occupied by Wooden Award winner Trey Burke last season. With McGary and Robinson back, John Beilein has one of America’s top centers and one of the nation’s most versatile wings. This tournament will be an early opportunity for the duo to prove that Michigan is still potent without Burke.

Okaro White, Florida State: There’s a lot of pressure on White right now. Florida State will enter 2013-14 without top scorer and veteran Michael Snaer. Terrance Shannon transferred. And Leonard Hamilton will be forced to rely on some young players again in a league (ACC) that could be the nation’s best conference with the arrival of Pitt, Notre Dame and Syracuse. But White made major strides in his junior campaign. The 6-8 forward averaged 12.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.1 blocks. He hit 81.5 percent of his free throws, and he was 10th in the ACC with a 4.13 block percentage (KenPom.com). But can he lead this group? We’ll find out in Puerto Rico.

Markel Starks, Georgetown: Greg Whittington’s torn ACL jeopardizes his entire season and it also jeopardizes the Hoyas’ season. Three other starters from last season return. But it was much easier to view Georgetown as a threat to win the inaugural title in the new Big East when Whittington was healthy. To maintain that hope -- if Whittington can’t return -- Starks has to guide a team that still has some talented pieces from last season and will add UCLA transfer Josh Smith after the first semester. Starks did it all for Georgetown last year (12.8 points, 3.0 assists, 1.3 steals, 41.7 percent from the 3-point line). But the Hoyas might need him to do even more in 2013-14.

Title-game prediction: VCU over Georgetown.

The Hoyas should reach the title game, but I think they’ll face a VCU squad that’s equipped with a multitude of talent and depth. Smart has a rotation that could be 10-11 players deep. And even though he has lost a few veterans, he will gain the services of former top recruits Mo Alie-Cox and Jordan Burgess, two players who were academically ineligible for competition last season. And Shannon, the Florida State transfer, will be available, too. Smart’s HAVOC attack demands talent and depth, and he has both. This is the most skilled squad that he has had at VCU. That’s just too much for Georgetown to overcome, especially with VCU’s interior advantage (see Shannon and 6-9 forward Juvonte Reddic). These Rams will be dangerous. They’ll prove it in San Juan.

Who others are picking:

Eamonn Brennan: VCU over Georgetown
Jeff Goodman: VCU over Northeastern
Seth Greenberg: Michigan over Georgetown
Andy Katz: Michigan over Georgetown
Jason King: VCU over Kansas State
Dana O'Neil: VCU over Kansas State
L.J. Peak is a teenager. He is good at basketball. On Tuesday, he made a lot of South Carolina fans angry. I think he might be my new favorite player.

Let's fill in the blanks: Peak, the No. 54-ranked player in the class of 2014, is a product of South Carolina's Gaffney High School, where his friend, Shaq Davidson, was a highly touted football prospect. On Tuesday, during their joint announcement ceremony, Davidson chose South Carolina. A few minutes later, Peak did the same. He donned a Gamecocks hat. He soaked in the cheers. And then, in just a few seconds' time, he whipped the USC hat off, threw it to the floor, and replaced it with a Georgetown brim. He had committed to the Hoyas after all.

And yes, lest you worry, there is video of the moment:

Needless to say, beleaguered South Carolina hoops fans didn't like losing out on a potentially huge recruit. Twitter tells us so. I wouldn't want to base an entire fan base's feelings off tweets sent by the kinds of people who send high school athletes angry tweets, of course. But you can understand why Gamecocks fans -- to say nothing of coach Frank Martin and his staff -- might be a little bit insulted at the antics. Instead of switching hats as a matter of genuine uncertainty, Peak played with the Gamecocks intentionally, just before throwing their hat and all the heavy-handed symbolism contained within it as casually as one would toss a fast food wrapper. Ouch, you know?

The easiest reaction to this: Another careless, attention-starved teenager spoiled by an environment that prematurely exalts him. Harumph. Maybe that's the only reaction. Maybe that's all there is to it.

Or maybe, just maybe, the fault lies not with the teenager having some goofy fun with one of the most exciting days of his life. Maybe the fault lies with anyone who would put stock into the decision in the first place. Maybe the fault lies with anyone who would actually be offended by what is, in the big scheme of things, an otherwise harmless bit of emotion-trolling. Maybe anyone who considers the donning of a hat to be a sacred ritual needs to re-evaluate the meaning of "sacred."

Maybe this isn't about Peak at all. Maybe everyone just needs to chill.
1. The World University Games USA team trimmed its roster down to 16 players on Wednesday. The team is loaded with Creighton's Doug McDermott, Michigan State's Adreian Payne, Duke's Rodney Hood, Baylor's Cory Jefferson and Colorado's Spencer Dinwiddie. Virginia's Joe Harris withdrew due to a stress fracture in his left foot (which should be of concern to Cavs fans since he's a must for them next season). North Carolina's P.J. Hairston didn't make the team due to a back injury. The surprise was that Hairston was even in Colorado Springs for the tryouts. Hairston was arrested recently (along with two others) for possession of marijuana. Harrison was cited for driving without a license. A day later, we learned that a 9mm firearm with ammunition was discovered next to a rental car he was driving. Why would USA basketball invite Hairston with the charges hanging over him? Why have him in Russia for the World University Games with questions surrounding his status with the law? A spokesperson said from the Czech Republic at the FIBA U-19 World Championships that USA basketball issued a statement after speaking with UNC coach Roy Williams. USA basketball was "comfortable with P.J. Hairston participating,'' in training camp. That's a bit weak to only talk to Williams as to whether or Hairston should be at the trials. USA basketball was fortunate a decision was made for it with the Hairston injury. USA basketball has made all the right moves recently, but this wasn't one of them.

2. New Big East commissioner Val Ackerman said the conference is set at 10. If this conference is going to be all about basketball then 10 is the magic number. The Big 12 is finding out what the Pac-12 (then the Pac-10) knew for years. Having a true round-robin makes for the most equitable conference season and ultimate champion. The new Big East doesn't need anymore of the A-10 schools to be solvent. They have enough of the market place and would not benefit much from adding more schools simply to get more teams in the tournament. There is not even guarantee that would occur. The most pressing moves Ackerman has to do in the coming weeks -- outside of visiting every school -- is to hire a staff, find rental space in New York City and finalize a difficult schedule because of the pro-arena conflicts for many of the teams. Ackerman impressed the media on Wednesday's conference call with her command of the issues and knowledge of the landscape after not being involved in college athletics recently -- aside from putting together a constructive critique of the women's college game.

3. Georgetown's Otto Porter said former teammates Markel Starks and D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera are going to have breakthrough seasons next year. He was also really high on UCLA transfer Josh Smith, who will be eligible at mid-semester. Smith has had plenty of hype and potential and this redshirt year (last spring semester and this fall) are probably two of the most important semesters of his career. If Smith is in shape and ready to play then he could be a difference maker for the Hoyas in the new Big East.
In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

Top Five NBA Draftees Since 1989

  1. Allen Iverson (1996)
  2. Alonzo Mourning (1992)
  3. Dikembe Mutombo (1991)
  4. Roy Hibbert (2008)
  5. Greg Monroe (2010)
Sixth man: Jeff Green (2007)

The rest: Charles Edward Smith, Jaren Jackson, Robert Churchwell, Don Reid, Jerome Williams, Othella Harrington, Jahidi White, Ruben Boumtje-Boumtje, Mike Sweetney, Patrick Ewing Jr., DaJuan Summers, Chris Wright, Henry Sims

Why they’re ranked where they are: My barbershop -- all barbershops -- was buzzing after Allen Iverson embarrassed the Great One with a couple of crossovers that froze the legend.

“Did you see it?”

“I can’t believe he did that.”

“He fears no man.”

On March 12, 1997, Michael Jordan still ruled the NBA. That season culminated with Jordan and the Chicago Bulls winning their fifth NBA title.

But it was clear then that his reign would end soon. Superman would eventually age.

The NBA’s influx of young talent, however, boasted a fleet of potential successors.

When his Philadelphia 76ers faced the eventual champs that night, Iverson was an emerging candidate. He was a 6-foot ball of agility, speed, skill and explosiveness. And he met the hype that began building during the 1997 rookie of the year’s debut.

Iverson was one of the greatest players in NBA history.

That double-crossover against Jordan demonstrated the bravado Iverson exuded then. He wasn’t the first young cat to challenge MJ. But his audacity and success contributed to the notion that he was ready to seize the throne. The career-high 37 points that evening provided more proof that the Georgetown product could be NEXT in the NBA.

In his prime, Iverson wrestled with a variety of All-Stars for the “best in the NBA” title. The league MVP in 2001, Iverson carried the Philadelphia 76ers to the NBA Finals. They lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.

But the second-best player on that 76ers roster might have been Aaron McKie. Think about that.

Iverson averaged 31.1 PPG, 4.6 APG and 2.5 SPG in 2000-01. Few players throughout the history of the league have carried that much weight in a run to the Finals.

Iverson was an 11-time All-Star. He was named to the NBA’s all-first team three times. He won the scoring title four times. And he averaged 26.7 PPG, 6.2 APG and 2.2 SPG (78 percent free throw shooter) throughout a 14-year career.

His messy exit and disastrous post-NBA existence have made the memories of “AI” feel ancient. But he stood with the league’s kings for many years.

[+] EnlargeAllen Iverson
AP Photo/ Nick WassAllen Iverson averaged 25 points, 4.7 assists and 3.4 steals per game during his final year at Georgetown.
He is certainly the best player Georgetown has produced since the 1989 draft, the cutoff for this project.

For most of the schools that have cracked our “Path to the Draft” rankings, Iverson would represent an anomaly.

Multiple schools produced a single superstar who anchored their entire NBA legacies. But Georgetown is different.

Iverson is certainly the top performer within this group. But he’s not the only elite athlete representing the Hoyas.

Georgetown is No. 2 because the majority of the school’s draftees in the last 20-plus years are/were stars at the next level.

Iverson, Dikembe Mutombo, Alonzo Mourning, Greg Monroe, Roy Hibbert and Jeff Green anchor a group that’s second in our rankings because of its undeniable depth and talent. The numbers are modest: 19 draftees since 1989.

But Mutombo, Mourning, Hibbert and Iverson made a combined 26 All-Star appearances. And Green and Monroe could be All-Stars soon.

Othella Harrington played for 11 years. Jerome “Junkyard Dog” Williams was the consummate glue guy and a gritty rebounder.

Mourning’s career was interrupted by kidney issues. But he played most of his career as one of the league’s best bigs. He was a seven-time All-Star. In both 1999 and 2000, he was the defensive player of the year and the NBA’s blocks leader.

Mutombo was a four-time defensive player of the year. He led the NBA in rebounding twice and blocks three times. He was also vital for that 76ers team that lost to the Lakers in the 2001 NBA Finals (11.7 PPG, 12.4 RPG, 2.5 BPG).

But the Hoyas also have three current NBA players who've emerged as future stars, too.

Hibbert was impressive throughout this season’s playoffs. He’s one of the top centers in the NBA right now.

The Boston Celtics are changing. Their new nucleus could revolve around Jeff Green, who revived his career in 2012-13 after missing significant time with a heart issue.

And the Detroit Pistons have a potent young big man in Greg Monroe.

That’s a hefty lineup.

My guess is that Georgetown in the No. 2 slot will draw boos from some folks who’ve followed our rankings. But the Hoyas deserve this position.

This is a stacked assembly that surpasses any group we’ve mentioned thus far.

Why they could be higher: It’s simple. Georgetown has arguably produced the most impressive collection of talent since the 1989 draft.

Mutombo, Mourning and Iverson were all great players during their respective stints in the league. All three could be in the Hall of Fame.

But the current reps have high ceilings.

Hibbert (2013 playoffs: 17.0 PPG, 9.9 RPG, 1.9 BPG, 51.1 field goal percentage, 81 percent from the free throw line) was one of the most effective players in the postseason. He’s obviously on the rise. The Pacers will pay him a lot of money soon.

Monroe (16.0 PPG, 9.6 RPG, 3.5 APG, 1.3 SPG, 49 field goal percentage in 2012-13) is a franchise player for the Pistons.

And Green (2013 playoffs: 20.3 PPG, 5.3 RPG, 2.3 APG, 84.4 percent of his free throws, 45.5 percent from the 3-point line in six playoff games in 2012-13) was a beast in a postseason loss to the New York Knicks.

Georgetown could make an argument for the No. 1 slot in our rankings because the Hoyas have a balance of past and current standouts that’s difficult to match. The program’s past is rich with players who were all considered elite, and its future is attached to multiple athletes who are considered some of the NBA’s top youngsters right now.

That’s why the Hoyas could be a potential No. 1 in these rankings.

Why they could be lower: This is not a quantitative project. But the 19 draft picks would be the only valid reason to demote Georgetown. Our rankings have featured teams that have sent dozens of players to the NBA since the 1989 draft.

Georgetown, however, has averaged less than one draftee per year throughout our eligibility period. Arizona, No. 4 in our rankings, has produced 32 draft picks since 1989. Kansas, No. 14, has sent 34 players to the league since that time.

But I think Georgetown’s concentration of talent overrides any debates about its numbers.

What’s ahead? Well, we’ve already discussed the new flag-bearers for Georgetown. Hibbert, Green and Monroe continue to evolve each year.

Three guys who’ve become anchors on NBA teams.

In a few days, Otto Porter Jr. will become Georgetown’s latest lottery pick and young prospect.

He’s an ideal pro small forward. He’s 6-foot-8. He’s comfortable as a ball handler. He has enough length to hurt opponents inside. He’s dangerous from the field, too (42.2 percent from the 3-point line last season). And he’s efficient (118.8 offensive rating in 2012-13 per KenPom.com).

He’s a top-five pick on many draft boards.

No guarantees that he’ll become a star. But he has the tools to perform at a high level once he arrives.

He was born to play the 3-spot in the NBA.

And Georgetown’s NBA legacy suggests that Porter will adjust well.

Final thoughts: I understand the arguments. But I don’t agree with them.

Yes, multiple teams could have been listed at No. 2.

Duke, Connecticut, Arizona and others are strong candidates.

But I’ll take Georgetown every day.

Iverson was the best guard in the league for a healthy stretch. Mutombo and Mourning were two of the greatest defensive players of all time. Hibbert? Identify a better center in the NBA today.

Green is a necessary component for a Boston Celtics team that’s rebuilding. And Monroe is the man in the Motor City.

That’s a special crew.

Only one team can top it.
In the weeks leading up to the June 27 NBA draft, we’ll be taking a look at the 20 schools that have produced the best pros in the modern draft era (since 1989, when the draft went from seven to two rounds). Click here to read Eamonn Brennan’s explanation of the series, which will be featured in the Nation blog each morning as we count down the programs from 20 to 1.

The only thing more frustrating than losing in the NCAA tournament is losing in the NCAA tournament when you have a ton of talent.

Or worse … what if you don't even get there?

No team is immune to an upset. Even the best programs have inexcusable slip-ups from time to time. There are legitimate reasons for concern, however, when it begins to happen consistently.

Here are eight schools who have made underachieving a trend in March despite touting rosters stocked with NBA-caliber talent.

Alabama: Football might be the most-popular sport in Tuscaloosa, Ala., but Alabama has a history of producing some of basketball’s best pros. Latrell Sprewell, Antonio McDyess, Robert Horry, Mo Williams, Gerald Wallace, Alonzo Gee … you’ve got to admit, that’s a pretty impressive list. Unfortunately, it never led to much for the Crimson Tide, which owns just one SEC regular-season championship (2002) in the past 26 seasons. Even worse is that Alabama has advanced beyond the Sweet 16 just once in school history. That occurred in 2004, and Bama has made just three NCAA tournament appearances since. Perhaps things will change this season, as Anthony Grant welcomes back a top 25-caliber squad.

Georgetown: Yes, the Hoyas are just months removed from winning a Big East title. And it was only six seasons ago that John Thompson III’s squad advanced to the 2007 Final Four. Still, this list is based largely on postseason accomplishments, and no one can argue that, overall, Georgetown has been a disappointment in March. That aforementioned Final Four berth was the Hoyas’ first since 1985 -- and they haven’t advanced to the NCAA tournament’s second weekend since. Even worse is that their past five tournament losses are to Davidson, Ohio, VCU, NC State and Florida Gulf Coast (as a No. 2 seed). That’s an ugly mark on a program that boasts recent alumni such as Greg Monroe, Jeff Green, Roy Hibbert and Otto Porter.

Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets’ loss to Connecticut in the 2004 NCAA title game marked the only time in 17 seasons that they’ve advanced beyond the first weekend of the NCAA tournament. To be fair, Georgia Tech has been hit hard by the one-and-done era, with players such as Stephon Marbury, Chris Bosh, Thaddeus Young and Derrick Favors spending only one season in school before turning pro. But there have also been enough quality players who stuck around longer to make this level of inconsistency avoidable (Jarrett Jack and Iman Shumpert come to mind). Former coach Paul Hewitt did a good job of luring talent to Atlanta yet always seemed to be fighting an uphill battle.

New Mexico: The Lobos might not be known for churning out NBA players in the same fashion as Georgetown, Texas or any of the other schools on this list -- although they’ve certainly had a handful of good ones including Danny Granger, Kenny Thomas and Luc Longley. Still, for a program that owns four of the past five MWC titles as well as a WAC championship in 1994, you’d figure the Lobos would’ve made at least one NCAA tournament run in their 11 appearances since 1989, but they haven’t. Instead, New Mexico has lost in the first or second round in each of those seasons. One of the most gut-wrenching defeats occurred just months ago, when Steve Alford’s No. 3-seeded Lobos fell to 14-seed Harvard. Not once in school history have the Lobos advanced to the Sweet 16.

Texas: It might seem unfair to include the Longhorns on this list. Texas, after all, made 14 straight NCAA tournament appearances under Rick Barnes before being left out of the field this spring. That’s an amazing feat. Still, considering the talent that has flocked to Austin in recent years, simply earning a berth to the Big Dance isn’t enough. Since losing to Syracuse in the 2003 Final Four, Barnes’ squad has been bounced during the opening weekend six times in 10 seasons, with three of the setbacks coming in the opening round. The most-disappointing defeat occurred in 2007, when the Kevin Durant-led Longhorns were upended by USC 87-68 in the second round. More should be expected from a program that had 10 players (Durant, LaMarcus Aldridge, D.J. Augustin, Avery Bradley, Tristan Thompson, P.J. Tucker, Daniel Gibson, Cory Joseph, Jordan Hamilton and Royal Ivey) on NBA rosters this season.

USC: It seems almost unfathomable that a school located in such fertile recruiting territory could boast just two second-weekend NCAA tournament appearances since 1961. But that’s the case with USC, whose only claim to fame is a Sweet 16 berth in 2007 and an Elite Eight cameo in 2001. It’s not as if the Trojans haven’t had talent. O.J. Mayo, Taj Gibson, Nick Young, DeMar DeRozan and Nikola Vucevic are all holding their own in the NBA. It would’ve been interesting to see if Tim Floyd could’ve taken USC to new heights, but an off-court scandal forced Floyd to resign in the summer of 2009, setting back the Trojans’ program just as it appeared primed to take off. Perhaps new coach Andy Enfield can get things going in Los Angeles.

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons have been one of the dregs of the ACC the past few seasons, but it wasn’t long ago that Wake Forest had the talent to contend for an NCAA title. The 2008-09 squad featuring Jeff Teague, Al-Farouq Aminu, James Johnson and Ishmael Smith soared to the top of the Associated Press rankings after opening the season with 16 straight wins, but it floundered down the stretch and lost to Cleveland State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament. The postseason failure was nothing new for Wake Forest, which has advanced to the Sweet 16 just once in the past 17 seasons. That’s pretty disappointing for a program with an alumni base that includes Tim Duncan, Chris Paul, Josh Howard and Darius Songalia.

Washington: Lorenzo Romar has done a solid job since taking over the Huskies program in 2002. Washington has won two Pac-12 titles and finished second three times. Still, fans want results in the postseason, and Romar can’t get over that “Sweet 16 hump.” The Huskies have never advanced past that stage of the NCAA tournament -- not just under Romar, but in school history. Heck, the past two seasons, Washington didn’t even make the NCAA tournament. That’s a shame for a program that’s produced six first-round draft picks (Nate Robinson, Brandon Roy, Spencer Hawes, Quincy Pondexter, Terrence Ross and Tony Wroten) since 2005 -- not to mention second-rounders Jon Brockman and Isaiah Thomas. The talent at Washington has simply been too good to not make at least one or two significant runs.
1. The NCAA's random date of April 16 to declare for the NBA draft isn't pressuring a number of players into making quick decisions. Coaches are now savvy to the date as being meaningless. That's why Gonzaga's Kelly Olynyk may wait to decide until the NBA's own early-entry deadline of April 28. Olynyk is probably going to be the same player in the NBA whether he declares next season or this. He is a Wooden All-America and, if he were to return, would be one of the contenders for player of the year. Missouri's Phil Pressey is also weighing a similar decision over the next few weeks. A number of players haven't outlined their intentions but have plenty of time, like Miami's Shane Larkin, Kansas' Ben McLemore, Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, Georgetown's Otto Porter, Ohio State's Deshaun Thomas, Syracuse's C.J. Fair and Michael Carter-Williams, Louisville's Russ Smith as well as Indiana's Cody Zeller. Cal's Allen Crabbe joined the list of draftees earlier Wednesday. I fully expect Indiana's Victor Oladipo, Louisville's Gorgui Dieng, UCLA's Shabazz Muhammad and Michigan's Trey Burke to declare soon. No official word out of Connecticut, but the staff is anticipating -- at this point -- that guards Shabazz Napier and Ryan Boatright will return (smart move if it happens, since they don't have an NBA home to go to next season).

2. The Big Ten suddenly got incredibly younger with this week's two coaching hires -- Northwestern announcing Chris Collins and Minnesota tabbing Richard Pitino. The under-40 club will give the league a new look. The two take over programs that are striving for consistency, but both desperately need an upgrade in facilities to hang with the big boys. Collins and Pitino will need to use their youthful enthusiasm to build momentum since the dollars aren't in place for facilities they were used to -- Collins was at Duke and Pitino at Louisville and Florida before his stop at Florida International. Northwestern had been looking at Collins for quite some time. But Pitino was clearly a new name for Minnesota in the past week as athletic director Norwood Teague looked for an off-the-grid-type hire like he made at Virginia Commonwealth. Pitino got off to an impressive start in his coaching career at FIU with the upset of Middle Tennessee in the Sun Belt tournament and a chance to earn the league's automatic NCAA tournament berth. Now he'll face his toughest challenge of his career. He has a brand name in basketball, which carries weight, but will need to put together a strong staff to quickly earn the trust of his players this spring and summer. This can work at both places. Memphis, for example, has been a soaring success under Josh Pastner. Pastner led the Tigers to conference titles and NCAA tournament appearances as a young, vibrant assistant-turned-head-coach of a major program. Collins was a fit at Northwestern so there's no issue there. But give Pitino a chance to see if this could work.

3. Old Dominion looked like it was set to go to former Western Kentucky and Georgia coach Dennis Felton before the Monarchs and athletic director Wood Selig tabbed American's Jeff Jones. This hire came out of left field, but might end up being one of the better fits. Jones played and coached at Virginia and should be able to recruit well in the fertile Tidewater area. Jones had made American a consistent Patriot League contender, which isn't easy to do in a conference where Bucknell and Lehigh are the anchors. ODU knows who it is and wanted to gravitate toward a coach that made sense. This hire does.

Wooden Watch: King's POY ballot

March, 26, 2013
3/26/13
1:05
PM ET

With one flick of the wrist, Victor Oladipo ended the debate. At least in my mind. For the last few months, I'd been leaning toward putting the Indiana guard at the top of my final Wooden Award ballot. Oladipo's game-clinching 3-pointer in last weekend's round-of-32 victory over Temple cemented his place in the No. 1 slot.

Granted, I was probably going to vote for Oladipo anyway. The all-around contribution he made to the Hoosiers' Big Ten regular-season championship squad was invaluable. His per-game stats: points (13.6), rebounds (6.4), steals (2.1) and assists (2.1). The junior played a factor in every facet of the game. "Energy guys" do that, and no player this season exhibited a motor quite like Oladipo, whose grit and determination and passion permeated throughout Indiana's locker room and carried onto the court. The kid is a flat-out winner and, as a result, so was Indiana.

Here is a copy of my final Wooden Award ballot:

1. Victor Oladipo, Indiana -- The Hoosiers guard doesn't get nearly enough credit for his strong defensive play. He can guard almost every position. He also has a knack for coming up big in key moments, which is why the Hoosiers were able to beat Temple and advance to the Sweet 16.

2. Trey Burke, Michigan -- The sophomore point guard spent quite a bit of time at the top of this list, but he has taken a slight dip in recent weeks. He went 2-for-12 from the field against South Dakota State and committed seven turnovers against VCU. He's shot below 50 percent in his last six games.

3. Jeff Withey, Kansas -- No team in the country has a defensive weapon quite like Withey, who had 16 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks in Sunday's win against North Carolina. Withey averages 13.8 points, 8.5 rebounds and 3.9 blocks for the Jayhawks, who are in the Sweet 16 for the third straight year.

4. Otto Porter, Georgetown -- The 6-foot-8 forward struggled in Georgetown's final two games. He went just 4-of-13 in a loss to Syracuse in the Big East tournament and only 5-of-17 in an upset loss to Florida Gulf Coast in the NCAA tournament last weekend. Still, Porter's overall accomplishments cannot be ignored.

5. Doug McDermott, Creighton -- McDermott labored in Creighton's third-round NCAA tournament loss to Duke. He scored 21 points but went just 4-of-16 from the field. He ended the season averaging 23.2 points and 7.7 rebounds. He has yet to announce whether he'll skip his senior season and enter the NBA draft.

6. Kelly Olynyk, Gonzaga -- The Zags have been the NCAA tournament's biggest disappointment. They struggled to beat No. 16 seed Southern and then lost to No. 9 seed Wichita State. Olynyk averaged 23.5 points and 9.5 rebounds in the setbacks.

7. Mason Plumlee, Duke -- The center is ending his senior season on a tear. Plumlee is averaging 17.8 points in his last five games and has helped Duke advance to the Sweet 16 against Michigan State. On the season Plumlee is averaging 17.2 points, 10 rebounds and 1.5 blocks.

8. Cody Zeller, Indiana -- The 7-foot sophomore may not have lived up to his Preseason Player of the Year expectations, but he still had an excellent season for the Big Ten champion Hoosiers. He averages team highs in points (16.7) and rebounds (8.0).

9. Shane Larkin, Miami -- The Hurricanes were one of the biggest stories of the college basketball season thanks to Larkin, the point guard who led his team to the ACC regular-season title and the Sweet 16. Larkin averages 14.5 points, 4.6 assists and two steals. He averaged 23.7 points in the ACC tournament, which Miami won.

10. Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State -- The junior averages 19.7 points and 6.1 rebounds for a Buckeyes squad that will play Arizona in the Sweet 16. In two NCAA tournament games, he's averaging 23 points while shooting a combined 16-of-26 from the field.

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