College Basketball Nation: Wednesday Hoopsbag

Every week, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog. You can also email me or send me your entries via Twitter. (Honestly, the best way to get me is Twitter.)

Alex Goldstein in Baltimore writes: After Notre Dame's win over Pittsburgh Tuesday night, is Maryland's win over Note Dame a quality win?

Eamonn Brennan: In the words of the old Fake Steve Jobs: namaste, Alex. I honor the place where your transitive property and the Hoopsbag meet, but I'm afraid I have to disagree. For one, Notre Dame beat Pitt at home, and home wins in the Big East only go so far. More importantly, though, I'm not sure a win over Pittsburgh can be reasonably termed "quality" at this point, either. The Panthers looked atrocious in South Bend last night, particularly on the defensive end, where they have been uncharacteristically bad all season.

They're ranked No. 159 in Pomeroy's adjusted defensive efficiency, and they allowed 1.24 points per possession to a Notre Dame team that has itself struggled mightily since losing star Tim Abromaitis to an ACL tear in November. Pitt's offense let it down, too, which is something we saw in the Panthers' only other true road game this season, a 61-56 win at Tennessee. I remain entirely unsold on Pittsburgh. Thus, I remain entirely unsold on Notre Dame. So, yeah, no, Maryland doesn't get much credit for the win over ND. If the Irish's win Tuesday marks the beginning of a major turnaround, this status could change. But right now, I don't know that any of these three teams, or any of their wins to date, are deserving of the q-word. Sorry.

@betterball writes: Did u see Norris Cole last night for the Heat? He played in Horizon League, correct? Can you educate me/us on him a little?

Brennan: I did see him, yes, and my immediate reaction -- as a Bulls fan, mind you -- was "oh, no." The idea of a surprisingly awesome Norris Cole giving the Heat athleticism, penetration and spot-up shooting at the point guard spot is just utterly terrifying.

In any case, as a college hoops fan, I loved Cole's game almost as much as I loved his high-top fade. He was one of the most versatile and athletic players in the country, let alone the Horizon League, a guy who not only scored and set up teammates but who rebounded at a high rate on the defensive end. (To wit: He went for 41 points, 20 rebounds and nine assists in 40 minutes against Youngstown State last season. Youngstown State is hardly the Boston Celtics, but still. Crazy.) He isn't -- or at least wasn't -- much of a 3-point shooter, averaging around 34 percent from beyond the arc last season. But he's athletic enough to create his own shot against other point guards. He can score from the mid-range. He can get to the rim and finish with contact. He's a knockdown free-throw shooter. And for a team like the Heat -- a team that features two of the best five basketball players on planet Earth -- NBA fans could see Cole do a lot of what he did last night, when he caught the ball against defensive rotation, found his spots with ease and finished efficiently from 20 feet and in.

Thanks to questions about his size and outside shooting, Cole slipped to the Heat at the very bottom of the first round in June's NBA draft. Of course he did. Like I said: terrifying.

Dave Brown in West Paducah, Ky. writes: Eamonn, please tell me how UConn forward Andre Drummond is being allowed to play this year when he was recruited by Jim Calhoun and other coaches as a prep star? I didn't think recruits could walk on, and shouldn't he have to sit out the first year? The Huskies did not have any scholarships to give due to NCAA sanctions, correct?

Jamie Steele in Winchester, Ky. writes: There seems to be some misunderstanding about the recruited/walk on rule and how UConn is able to use Drummond as a walk-on, playing immediately, without taking a hit against their scholarship limit that has been reduced by NCAA penalty. Can you clear this up for those not in the know?

Brennan: OK, so here's how it works. Typically, Jamie and Dave are right -- a recruited player isn't allowed to become a walk-on and play right away, because that is a way around each team's scholarship limits, and the NCAA doesn't like that. But Drummond and Connecticut were able to get around this rule thanks to another, less malignant, scholarship loophole. According to Connecticut -- which couldn't possibly afford another NCAA violation, so a large amount of due diligence and work with the NCAA went into this move -- Drummond is allowed to be a walk-on provided the aid he receives this season is "non-institutional." In other words, Connecticut can't give him the kind of affiliated loans you and I took out when we were in school (and which I'll be paying off forever, it seems). But Drummond and his family could go to a separate financial institution and ask for a loan, which he was apparently granted. The Hartford Courant's Don Amore wrote an excellent recap of the situation last week.

We don't know where or how Drummond got this loan, but it would presumably be easy to attain, considering he's a likely top-five pick in the 2012 NBA draft and sure to make millions whenever he decides to leave UConn. Drummond hails from Connecticut, so he's on in-state tuition, making the loan even less substantial. In other words, it works, and it's a nice little story, too. Future NBA draft pick takes out loans so his walk-on teammate doesn't have to; it's a direct reversal of the seediness that characterized Drummond's decision to attend UConn despite the Huskies' NCAA-mandated scholarship reductions.

That said, there are some nagging questions here. The one I'm most interested in is this: Could other top players follow Drummond's lead? Has Connecticut figured out a way to get a highly touted, highly recruited player -- the kind of guy a program is required to put on scholarship -- on the team without having to use that scholarship? Could another future NBA draft pick choose a school with no place for him and decide, "Hey, I'll be a millionaire in eight months anyway, I might as well just take out $30,000 in loans and pay it off later?" If I'm a highly touted player, I'm not doing that, because $30,000 is still $30,000, and the NBA is never a 100 percent guarantee. I don't imagine we'll see a major trend in this direction. But if there's one thing we know about college hoops coaches, it's this: If there's a loophole to be found and exploited, they will find it and exploit it. We'll see.

Which brings us, right on cue, to an excellent idea from Matt B in Philly. Matt, the floor is yours.

Matt B from Philadelphia writes: Last week, it was discovered that Andre Drummond, and not Michael Bradley, is a walk-on. One of the top players in the country, who was recruited heavily by UConn and others, suddenly doesn't count towards their roster limit? This makes even less sense than when we thought that Bradley lost his scholly. This is absolutely nothing against UConn since they are playing by the rules given to them, and adhering to their punishment as written. Their punishment however turned out to be toothless and meaningless because roster size is determined by scholarships. Wouldn't it be a good idea to base roster limits (at least for head count sports) on the number of recruited players? The NCAA rule book already has definitions to separate recruited and non recruited players, so the change would be fairly simple to make. It would have two great benefits: it would make roster limitations truly stick, and it would allow schools to reward deserving walk-ons with scholarships no matter how many recruited players were on the roster. BTW, the NCAA definition of a "recruited player" is very strict, so it would be nearly impossible to get a top player on a roster without him counting against the limit.

Brennan: There's a decent chance someone more familiar with the vagaries of NCAA scholarship rules -- and the guiding principles therein -- will be able to find holes in this. (I'm looking at you, Mr. Infante.) But I can't. It makes perfect sense to me.

You'd still have to have some overriding scholarship limit, of course, if only to keep the set number of roster spots and available scholarships consistent across all teams and leagues. The playing field must remain level, as it were. And really, at the end of the day, this might not make a huge difference. Drummond's situation is one of a kind for a reason; we necessarily shouldn't expect a deluge of highly recruited players suddenly being willing to leverage their debt against their unknown long-term potential basketball earnings. But Matt's rule would, in essence, cut out any potential of gray area: You can recruit X number of players to your team at any given time. That's that.

Again, there may be flaws here, and maybe someone else can point them out to us. But I'm struggling to see them.

@thisisirbe writes: With Indiana facing injuries to starter Verdell Jones and sixth man Will Sheehey, do they still have a shot to win at Michigan State tonight?

Brennan: The loss of Jones is hardly drastic. Sure, he gives the Hoosiers some nice mid-range scoring and a touch of veteran leadership, but he remains -- as he has for his entire IU career -- prone to turnovers and questionable decisions on the offensive end in addition to occasionally lackluster defense. Indiana may not be better without Jones, but I'm not willing to say they're necessarily worse, either.

Of course, if Jones was the only injury, Sheehey could slot right in to that starting spot, and Indiana would be just fine. But Sheehey's loss is a problem. He might be the best bench player in the country, a versatile 6-foot-6 shooting guard who hits 3s, spots up from mid-range and can guard a handful of positions at any given time. Without him, Indiana's depth -- hardly the Hoosiers' strong suit in the first place -- takes a major hit. Little-used guards like Matt Roth and Remy Abell will almost certainly see some time. That's fine in a home date with UMBC. But on the road, facing a very tough, physical, defensive-minded Michigan State team, that's a tall order indeed. A loss would hardly be a surprise.

@oldenburgc writes: With Xavier on a slide and out of the top 25. How much do you see those losses hurting them even with the quality wins they already have?

Brennan: If we're talking NCAA tournament seeding, yeah, it's going to hurt. Some may make the argument that the NCAA tournament selection committee should view Xavier's three recent losses -- all of which came after the Cincinnati brawl with some various undermanned teams on the floor -- the same way it would view a team who lost a handful of games with its best player on the sidelines. (See: Vanderbilt.) I disagree. These weren't injuries. They were suspensions, deserved ones. Frankly, the players involved (particularly Tu Holloway, who did much to instigate the Cincy brawl and received only one game of suspension) probably should have had to sit for longer. Besides, Xavier had Holloway back for its loss to Long Beach State in the first round of the Diamond Head Classic, and Mark Lyons returned in time for Xavier to lose in OT to a bad Hawaii team the next day.

If I'm a member of the selection committee, I'm not letting the Musketeers off the hook for three straight losses to Oral Roberts, LBSU and Hawaii. To me, those results are worth as much as any other. If that means Xavier's seed takes a hit in March, well, whose fault is that?

Frank in Louisville writes: Do you really believe Rick Pitino will retire when he said he would, in 2017?

Brennan: Some Louisville fans seem to be holding out hope that Pitino will change his mind between now and the end of his current contract, and will decide to keep coaching in 2017 and beyond. My answer? I don't know. It's hard to imagine Pitino making this sort of statement if he doesn't really believe it. But 2017 is also a long time from now. I mean, I don't even know what I'm doing next week. (Besides writing words about college basketball, that is.) Could he change his mind in the next five years? Sure! Will he? I don't know! Unfortunately, I am not Professor Charles Xavier. That's the best I can do.

Colorado Cat in Denver writes: Surprise school of 2011? Kansas State was picked to finish 8th in the Big 12 and we now know they've outperformed expectations. After a few weeks of play, do you think Frank Martin's 'Cats have what it takes to contend for the conference title -- despite preseason predictions?

Brennan: There's no question about it: Kansas State has been much better than pretty much everyone expected this season, and their title in last week's Diamond Head Classic was a nice little confirmation of that fact. (Some might turn their nose up at those three wins in the Diamond Head Classic, let's keep in mind that K-State beat a very good LBSU team by 17 in the tournament final. That's impressive.) The Wildcats are playing stellar defense, and their offense thus far appears to be much less stagnant than it was when it held them back for much of 2010-11. This is thanks primarily to physicality. Forwards Thomas Gipson, Jamar Samuels and Jordan Henriquez protect the rim on defense and crash the glass on offense, getting second-chance looks and frequent trips to the foul line against frontcourts that simply can't match up. (Which is, you know, a lot of them.)

To your question -- can they contend for the Big 12? -- I think the answer has to be yes. Are they the favorite? No. That's Baylor right now, followed closely by Missouri and Kansas. But through 11 games K-State has proven it deserves a spot in, or at least near, the league's second-tier. Considering the struggles of last season, and the talent lost in the offseason (namely senior star Jacob Pullen) that's an accomplish in itself.

'Bag: On UVa, upsets and me vs. Tu

November, 30, 2011
Every week, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog. You can alsoemail me or send me your entries via Twitter. (Honestly, the best way to get me is Twitter.) Per the usual, we begin with video.

@bwetsel writes: How is @eamonnbrennan going to call Virginia over Michigan an upset when Virginia is favored by 3.5? Do your research, bruh. ... .@eamonnbrennan might be the only person in the country who thought UVA over UM would be a huge upset. Which is why I don't follow ESPN ... @eamonnbrennan For real though, where's the logic for saying this UM-UVA game would be considered an upset?

Eamonn Brennan: Mr. bwetsel wasn't the only purveyor of feedback regarding my Big Ten/ACC Challenge Day 1 picks. (Which, by the way, I nailed 6-0. I don't mean to gloat, but when your past two NCAA tournament brackets have been as bad as mine, you have to take the small victories whenever you can. I'm like a high-major coach with a rebuilding program. I have to schedule down.) But he was the most vocal and apparently offended in regards to my pre-game analysis of Michigan-Virginia, a game Virginia won 70-58.

There are a few things to get out of the way here. One: I don't really look at betting lines when analyzing games. Maybe I should. But if you would have asked me before the game whether or not Virginia should have been favored, I would have scoffed. The things I do look at -- recent performance, tempo-free statistics, Synergy stats -- all pointed to the fact that Michigan was clearly better than Virginia in a variety of ways. The Wolverines were impressive in Maui. The Cavaliers lost to TCU in the Virgin Islands. The Wolverines were ranked significantly higher in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings and, for what it's worth, were ranked in the top 25. Virginia had yet to sniff the poll. The matchups, with the exception of Virginia forward Mike Scott, appeared to favor John Beilein's team.

I picked Virginia because I thought the Cavaliers, with Tony Bennett's slow defensive style forcing a grinding game and the benefit of home-court advantage (and a presumably tired Michigan team just back from Maui) would give them the edge. But I didn't think Virginia deserved to be favored. Does that really seem so radical? (I have other questions, like, if you don't follow ESPN, how did you see my prediction? And why would you tweet me about it? Is this not akin to the commenter who takes the time to write "This is stupid" on an article he did not enjoy? We'll save those answers for another time, I suppose.)

@rmj_equals_hero writes: Is Mike Scott the most patient post player in college basketball? Dude refuses to be rushed by double teams.

Brennan: Of any player I've seen not named Jared Sullinger, yes, he is. Scott was brilliant Tuesday night. Perhaps these are the benefits of five years of college hoops experience. Younger, more talented guys (I'm thinking, say, Patric Young) might not see defenses the same way. They might lack the intuitive passing ability required to suck in a double team before finding a wide-open teammate on the rotation. Or maybe Scott's just really good at this. Either way, Michigan's doubles did little to help their cause on the defensive end Tuesday, and with Virginia's defense playing as well as it is, the Wolverines were always fighting uphill in the second half.

@nittanynation11 writes: Has the big ten closed the gap on ACC? For years the challenge has been owned by the ACC.

Brennan: In the short term, absolutely it has. The Big Ten has won the past two seasons, for starters. But more than anything, the ACC is not nearly as deep as it once was. Consider the list of current teams either beset by injuries, rebuilding, struggling or all three: Georgia Tech, NC State, Maryland, Wake Forest, Virginia Tech, Miami. The list goes on. The Big Ten hasn't been magnificent the past two seasons, but it has been good enough to eke out enough wins to take the Challenge. This year, the Big Ten looks much improved, while the ACC is still hoping Clemson, Virginia, NC State can fill out that vague middle area and compete for NCAA tournament berths behind the likes of North Carolina, Duke and Florida State. We discussed this in the offseason: The ACC is down right now. It won't be for long (especially not with Syracuse and Pittsburgh on the way), but as of this very moment, the league just isn't that good.

@schmitz_boilers writes: What are your top 5 teams in the Big Ten from what you have seen so far?

Brennan: Good question. I'll go with this:
  1. Ohio State
  2. Wisconsin
  3. Michigan State
  4. Purdue
  5. Northwestern

It's not entirely fair to compile such a ranking this early in the season, because all schedules are not created equal, and I wouldn't be surprised if Indiana or Illinois ended up ultimately having better seasons than Purdue or Northwestern. And let's be real: By the end of the year, Michigan will be there. But from what I've seen thus far (and that includes Michigan State's two losses to Duke and UNC; I still think the Spartans are better defensively and primed for a rebound year), taking all of the results into consideration, I think these are the rankings. I'm sure they'll change in a week's time. Or, you know, after tonight.

Matt B. from Philly writes: I'm writing this in the middle of the second half of this OSU beatdown over Duke. OSU is completely out classing them right now, but I feel like 70% of this blowout is due to OSU just making every shot they take, hard or easy, and Duke can't buy a bucket that isn't a Plumlee dunk or Rivers drive. Is OSU really this good or Duke really this bad (in terms of being a legit championship contender) or would this be a much closer game on a neutral court come March, which is really what everyone wants to know about?

Brennan: I think this game would undoubtedly be closer a second time, thanks both to development by Duke and the benefit of not playing in front of a rabid Ohio State crowd just a few days after returning from an intense three-day stretch at the Maui Invitational. But just because it would be closer doesn't mean Duke would win. In a vacuum, Ohio State is clearly a better team. When you start considering the matchups and what both teams do best -- Duke scores from screen action on the perimeter, Ohio State defends the perimeter as well as any team in the country; Duke is precise but unathletic, Ohio State is athletic at every position and then some; et al -- I think the Buckeyes are clearly better, and would be on a neutral court. But the differences wouldn't be quite so glaring in March.

Abe from Southeast Ohio writes: Do you recall saying Mizzou was least likely of all the teams ranked to stay ranked? I have to admit, even as a die hard Mizzou fan, that I kind of agreed with you. Are we both wrong? They have made a strong statement in the young season thus far. Is this team a legitimate Big 12 title contender?

Brennan: Entering the season, everyone had questions about Mizzou. Would the Tigers -- who played famously uptempo under Mike Anderson, a coach that recruited the current batch of players precisely for that reason -- be derailed by a new coach and new style under Frank Haith? Would the investigation into Haith's tenure at Miami serve as a distraction? Could an already suspect defensive team, and one without any frontcourt depth, win with injured defensive specialist Laurence Bowers sidelined for an entire season?

Missouri has put those concerns to rest thus far. It's a long season, sure, but look at what the Tigers have done to date. They beat Notre Dame (before Tim Abromaitis's season-ending knee injury) 87-58. The next night, they turned around and crushed a ranked Cal team that many expect to compete for the Pac-12 title by an eye-popping margin, 92-53. They're ranked No. 8 in the country in Ken Pomeroy's adjusted efficiency rankings; they're ranked No. 2 in the country in both effective field goal percentage and turnover rate. They have been, in a word, brilliant.

Again, long season. Tougher opponents will come a'calling. But it's hard to look at what Haith's team has done already -- not to mention the seemingly open nature of the Big 12 title -- and not see Mizzou as a conference contender. They have to be in that conversation.

Chris Smith in Tiffin, Ohio writes: Ok, I just read your preview of Day 2 of ACC-Big Ten Challenge and ... NO OHIO ST.-DUKE PREVIEW?!? OMG ... It's only the marquee matchup of the whole series. WTH? Come to think of it, you didn't even mention OSU in today's "thoughts on the new poll." Guess I'll just stop looking for your college hoops "insights" from now on. Have a great year, Eamon. P.S.: You really didn't talk about Duke-Ohio St.??? Wow.

Brennan writes: This email was written about 1 p.m. yesterday. I wonder if Chris hit send and then checked the schedule and realized Duke-Ohio State was not, in fact, on Wednesday night, but was actually happening in a few hours. I wonder if Chris had that vague feeling of dread one gets when one realizes he sent an email he should not have sent. Or maybe he flipped on ESPN at 9:15 and thought ... "Oh. Whoops."

Either way: Best. Email. Ever.

@TravisHeHateMe writes: Could you beat Tu Holloway in a one-on-one game to eleven straight if he spotted you ten buckets?

Brennan: Now this is a Hoopsbag question. I like to think of myself as a pretty solid, maybe even good, pickup basketball player. I like to think, if I only needed to get one bucket in the time Tu Holloway would score 10, that I could at least fire off one lucky contested stepback jumper that would fall. I like to think I could do it.

If I'm being honest, though, the answer is almost certainly no. The competition at my gym is good. A few former college guys come play. A few of them walked on at big programs, a couple were scholarship athletes at mid-majors, that sort of thing. The gap between them and I is pretty wide; they're just too big and physical and skilled to boot. The gap between those players Tu Holloway is certainly even wider. I wouldn't stand a chance.

But could Tu Holloway write a killer blog post? Oooh! Yeah! What now?
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back. (If that Mase song didn't start ringing in your ears, I don't think we can be friends.) On each Wednesday of last season, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) responded to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this space. For lack of a more creative name, it was called the Hoopsbag. It makes a glorious return today.

Let's get back at it, shall we? To submit a query, visit this page. You can also email me or send me your entries via Twitter or Facebook.

@fakegimel writes via Twitter: If the conferences were all blown up and you could make 2 16-team super-basketball-confs, who'd be in?

Eamonn Brennan: This is an excellent question. Before we answer, let's set up some parameters: I'm going to assume every team in every major conference is available to be poached by my two super-leagues. I'm also going to assume football has nothing to do with realignment. (I know, I know: use your imagination.) Beyond that, let's be somewhat realistic: My two super-leagues are looking for storied programs with large fan bases that are financially attractive now and will be for the foreseeable long-term future.

Since we only have two, let's divide them geographically. One is EB West. The other is EB East. (Hey, it's still better than Legends and Leaders.)

Basketball's a bit down out West these days. So I'll admit it: Filling out a 16-team league comprised of teams west of the Mississippi was difficult. Ensuring it wasn't totally imbalanced with EB East was downright daunting. So I took a few geographic liberties. Hey, these programs all charter their planes anyway, right?

Here's what I came up with:

EB East

Seaboard Division
North Carolina Tar Heels
Duke Blue Devils
Connecticut Huskies
Syracuse Orangemen
Villanova Wildcats
Florida Gators
Georgetown Hoyas
Maryland Terrapins

Flyover Division
Kentucky Wildcats
Ohio State Buckeyes
Michigan State Spartans
Wisconsin Badgers
Indiana Hoosiers
Memphis Tigers
Xavier Musketeers
Louisville Cardinals

EB West

Coastal Division
UCLA Bruins
Washington Huskies
Arizona Wildcats
USC Trojans
Stanford Cardinal
Gonzaga Bulldogs
Oregon Ducks
San Diego State Aztecs

"Out There" Division
Texas Longhorns
Kansas Jayhawks
Missouri Tigers
Illinois Fighting Illini
Marquette Golden Eagles
UNLV Rebels
BYU Cougars
New Mexico Lobos

As you can see, EB West looks like the far less-loaded conference for two reasons: One, EB East is just stacked, and two, a few of the programs I raided from the Pac-12 are in rebuilding mode. But those markets are still viable, and my fake superconference commissioner is willing to risk that those teams collectively improve in the next few seasons. The current configuration is designed to cover large swaths of the country's major markets while preserving some semblance of traditional rivalries.

Either way, this was really hard. It probably deserves a whole column, or at least a blog post, and I'm sure there are plenty of fans who think I wrongly omitted their program. So, readers, what would you have done differently?

Harry Baujun in Chicago writes: Has any first year coach done more with his squad in a shorter amount of time than Dayton coach Archie Miller? After losing two of last year's top freshmen in Juwan Staten and Brandon Spearman to transfers, Kid Yuma signed former Providence commit, Alex Gavrilovic, brought in transfers from Georgetown (Vee Sanford) and LSU (Matt Derebecker) and as of yesterday landed former St. John's commit, Jevon Thomas.

Brennan: I think you could argue that Miller's brother, Arizona coach Sean Miller, resurrected a program as fast as anyone in the country. Also, let's not forget what John Calipari did in his very first season at Kentucky. That was basically a mediocre-to-awesome land speed record.

One under-the-radar candidate here? Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. Hoiberg's recruiting hasn't been off the charts, but his ability to score so many impact transfers (Royce White, Chris Allen, Korie Lucious and so on) in one season put the Cyclones in a position to improve mightily in his second year. Given where this program has been for the past decade, that's quite a feat.

Ross in Youngsville, N.Y. writes: I am a huge Gonzaga Bulldogs fan, and I have heard a ton of good things about incoming freshman Gary Bell Jr. and Kevin Pangos. I think the last really good floor general the Bulldogs had was Derek Raivio in the sense that he knew how to run the offense and was also a threat offensively. I loved Jeremy Pargo, but he dominated the ball at times. Meech Goodson was good, but he never took any great leaps while he was with the program. Could either of these guys be the answer at point, and what can we reasonably expect from them this year?

Brennan: I've heard the most promising news about Kevin Pangos. When Gonzaga landed Pangos in fall 2010, the Canadian prospect was essentially unscouted and unrecruited. But he put up big numbers at the 2010 FIBA U-17 World Championships and was a member of the all-tournament team alongside top recruits like UNC's James Michael McAdoo and Florida's Bradley Beal. Since then, our recruiting analysts have deemed him a four-star prospect and ranked him No. 19 at his position in the 2011 class. It's always hard to hand over a veteran-led offense to a freshman point guard, but it appears Pangos has the chops to handle the job.

Jeff Miller from Bloomington, Ind. writes: Is it realistic to say that the Indiana Hoosiers have a 50/50 chance to make it to the NCAA Tourney this year? Tom Crean has done a heck of a job recruiting, but will that show up this year?

Brennan: I think 50/50 is fair. The addition of Cody Zeller is the biggest one Crean has made in his Indiana career, bar none, and it's one that should make the rest of the team better by osmosis. Forward Tom Pritchard won't be as overmatched under the rim; talented small forward Christian Watford will actually get a chance to play his natural position. A lot will depend on whether the Hoosiers can significantly improve on defense. Zeller should help in that regard, too, but the rest of the team, especially the frontcourt, has to find a way to pressure defenders without fouling if Indiana wants to surprise some people and get back to the NCAA tournament a year ahead of schedule.

Grant Senter from San Antonio writes: Baylor currently has both of its basketball programs in the top 15 in the NCAA. The women's basketball program boasts the best player in game along with a plethora of Final Four runs and an NCAA championship. And how could we forget a men's program that has made one of the best comebacks in history back to the national stage? Baylor has the players now to make Adidas and Nike drool over future endorsement deals once they become pro. Why no mention in basketball circles in conference realignment?

Brennan: Unfortunately, that's not how realignment works. Conference realignment is about football. It is only ever about football. Men's basketball doesn't factor in, and women's basketball couldn't be further off the radar. You might as well cite a school's track and field accomplishments. Nice, sure, but as realignment goes, no one cares.

Baylor's is getting better at football but is historically mediocre in a state drenched with Texas and Texas A&M supporters. As such, its services are not in high demand. And no, having top recruits that may or may not sign endorsement deals with shoe companies after they leave school doesn't factor into football TV rights demand at all. If anything hoops-related was a realignment criterion, Kansas would be in the discussion. It's not. And neither is Baylor.

Scott from New York writes: Reading "How did the ACC get to its current state?" I'm not sure how you could do such an analysis and not mention football. The ACC's persuit of college football money has been at the peril of basketball. They took on BC, despite it making no geographic sense since the ACC is a southern conference and the Big East is a northeast conference. I'm sure that's helped BC's recruiting -- "yes, every conference away game will be 15 hours away." Then they took on Miami, who has never been good at basketball. Meanwhile teams like Maryland and FSU have only focused more on football. The American obsession with college football -- which a lot of us in the northeast don't understand since we don't have any college football powerhouses -- has hurt ACC basketball. Luckily, that's good for this UConn fan who's always thought little of the ACC.

Brett Ayers from Chapel Hill, N.C. writes: The ACC's issue is as much about the quality of the coaches as it is anything else. Tenure has little to do with it. Why has Butler, of all programs, being able to do what it has done with the same budget as what UNC spends on basketballs and shoes. The bottom line, as it is with most traditional powers and or leagues that have been strong in the past is the coaching has really gone down the tubes. It does not take a lot to recruit to the ACC unless you simply don't have a pulse.

Brennan: Two good perspectives on my and Dana's posts on the ACC's recent struggles. It's funny: We published those on Sept. 15. A few days later, Syracuse and Pittsburgh announced they were leaving the Big East and joining the ACC. From then on, the point seemed moot.

I would argue that coaching skill is deeply tied with coaching tenure. Typically, coaches don't get fired unless they lose. It's a vicious cycle. And I agree with Scott, too: Whether pre-existing programs are diverting funds to football or just spending more time caring about it, the ACC's pursuit of football money has at the very least watered down the league since its first expansion in 2003.

Todd in Versailles, Ky., writes: Eamonn, thanks for the entry about Big Blue Madness. Seventy-five percent of Kentucky fans are passionate and rational. Twenty percent are passionate and completely irrational. We treat them like that crazy uncle that you love, but just shake your head at. The other five percent are the nutjobs that make the other 95 percent look bad. I'm guessing that you've received several emails from that segment. For that, we apologize. Keep up the good work.

Brennan: You're welcome! I don't mean to pick on Kentucky fans in particular -- every fan base has its crazies, and every fan base takes umbrage when you write something they can perceive as even remotely negative. College sports fans are particularly provincial, and they seem to be constantly hunting for biases. It happens everywhere.

That said, no one circles the comment-thread wagons quite like Big Blue Nation. I may not always like the comments, but I can't deny the passion. Who could?

See, this is what the first Hoopsbag of the 2011-12 season should be about. Bridges mended; olive branches accepted. Let's keep up the positivity, shall we?

Patrick Wick in Dillon, Co. writes: Keep being negative about KU, go ahead. Eventually, you'll be eating your words. Rock Chalk Jayhawk GO KU!!!!!!!!

Brennan: This was the second question in the mailbag this morning. Sigh. It was fun while it lasted.
Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter or Facebook. Per the usual, we begin in video form.

Yes, the C-USA fans are none too happy about their league's possible one-bid NCAA tournament status. But first, let's start with the most wrongheaded, confused and grammatically questionable e-mail of the week.

Scott Dean in Tohatchi, N.M. writes: Do you only see royal blue or are you a Duke graduate? How can there be anyone as POY but Jimmer Fredette? I am not a fan of BYU but you have to be color blind or can read only a four letter word on the front of a jersey. Singler is there to help Smith; Fredette had no one to soften the load. Singler, remember, was a POY one year ago. Did you ever pick up a ball and actually play? I have coached for 30 years and smell a rat. No question that rat is you, I smell. Last time I looked BYU was ahead of Duke in all the polls. I forgot there is only one basketball school. It is Duke only correct.

Eamonn Brennan: I can only assume Scott is referring to today's conference player of the year discussions on the blog. As you'll notice -- and Scott apparently won't -- I cast my theoretical ACC player of the year ballot for Duke guard Nolan Smith. This is kind of a no-brainer; no ACC baller, with the possible exception of Boston College's Reggie Jackson, has had a more brilliant and important season than Smith.

Apparently, Scott missed the part that said "ACC." Apparently, Scott thinks I think Smith should be the national player of the year, too. So let's clear a few things up:
  • As frequent readers know, I think Fredette is the national player of the year. I think he will win the award. I think he deserves the award. I think he is the most entertaining, joyful basketball presence I've watched play basketball at the college level in a long, long time, and for what it's worth I think BYU fans are pretty hilarious, too.
  • I think Smith deserves consideration for the national player of the year award, because he has been that good. But I don't think he deserves to win it over Fredette. And I'm not necessarily convinced Smith deserves to win the award over Jared Sullinger, JaJuan Johnson, or even Jordan Taylor, either. That argument is fluid.
  • BYU is not a one-man team; Fredette has Jackson Emery, Noah Hartsock, Charles Abouo and others to "soften the load."
  • I did not graduate from Duke.
  • I do not suffer from Protanopia, e.g. red-deficient color-blindness.
  • During the college hoops season, I play basketball every Monday and Tuesday night. During the offseason, I play four or five times a week.
  • I am not a rat. That might be my dog you're smelling. She really needs a bath.

Triston Pence in El Paso, Tex. writes: Why are UTEP and C-USA teams being so disrespected by ESPN and its writers? C-USA is ranked as the No. 8 conference in the RPI. The conference has wins against Michigan, Gonzaga, West Virginia, Florida, Arkansas, Pac-10 teams, Big 12 teams ... I just don't get it. Five teams with 20-plus wins and EIGHT teams ranked in the RPI 100, but only the tournament champ should get an NCAA Tournament invite? I think UTEP should at least be on the bubble and CUSA should get more respect. Respectfully, TP.

Brennan: Ahhh. That's more like it.

Despite TP's well-argued, well-punctuated e-mail, though -- like many I got from C-USA die-hards this week -- I just can't get behind Conference-USA as more than a one or two-bid league this season. It's funny: College basketball fans spend most of their time in February bemoaning the RPI and its ubiquity, but as soon as it might help buttress an otherwise weak argument, RPI becomes everyone's best friend. Poor RPI. Of course, RPI only tells us so much. It's important to look at wins, at who each team has beaten, and right now the two best tournament resumes and RPI profiles in C-USA belong to UAB and Memphis. UAB's best win? At Marshall. Memphis's best win? At UAB. None of these teams have proven they can beat anyone outside their own conference, and both have had opportunities to do so. I'm not sure either of these teams belongs in the NCAA tournament as an at-large, and I highly doubt both of them do. The bubble is soft, but is it really that soft?

Oh, and as for UTEP, which just crushed Memphis on Saturday and turned Tim Floyd -- who we last saw being wrestled off the court by a police officer -- into a league spokesman? The Miners' profile is weak, too. Their RPI is No. 71, so they don't have the benefit of Memphis and UAB's computer strength. What's more, UTEP's only top 50 win was the Memphis victory, and the Miners' best win outside that group was probably its Nov. 27 neutral-court win against Michigan. Beating Michigan does not make you a tournament team. Beating Michigan while also losing to Pacific, East Carolina and Georgia Tech definitely doesn't make you a tournament team.

Maybe we're all wrong about Conference USA; maybe it's a much better league than we all think; maybe the RPI isn't playing tricks on us. If so, at least one C-USA team will have the opportunity to prove as much in March. Perhaps two will. Anything more than that is a gigantic stretch, one I'm not willing to make given how bad the conference's top teams have been outside their league this season.

Nolan in Racine, Wisc. writes: Who's your Big Ten POY? Jordan Taylor or Jared Sullinger?

Brennan: As I wrote in our blog debate today, I'm not sure Sullinger, Taylor, JaJuan Johnson, E'Twaun Moore and Jon Leuer aren't all deserving candidates. Forced to pick between all of them, I think Sullinger probably deserves the nod, if only because he's the key ingredient on what is in my opinion the obvious best team in the country this season. But if you think Taylor has been better, you won't get much of an argument for me. That goes for Johnson's case, too. All three -- heck, all five -- have had amazing seasons, and all five deserve nods in the POY voting at the end of the season.

Andrew in Littleton, Co. writes: What makes UNLV such a lock when Colorado's body of work seems so much better?

Brennan: The only thing on Colorado's profile that's actually better than UNLV is top 50 RPI wins. Colorado has beaten Missouri and Texas and swept Kansas State twice. UNLV has wins against Wisconsin and at Kansas State. Both have wins at Colorado State.

The rest of the comparison is not good for Colorado. One, the Buffaloes have an ugly RPI number (77) next to their name, which the committee (rightly or wrongly) will not appreciate. UNLV's RPI is 26. Two, Colorado's non-conference strength of schedule is No. 328. UNLV's is No. 78. Three, Colorado has five sub-100 RPI losses, including at San Fransisco and at Oklahoma. Colorado's only sub-50 RPI loss came to UC Santa Barbara. Four, Colorado is 7-11 vs. the RPI top 150. UNLV is 12-6 in that category. Eight of Colorado's wins came against teams ranked below No. 225 in the RPI.

Basically, Colorado fattened itself on cupcakes in the nonconference while UNLV went out and beat quality teams. Frankly, these profiles don't really compare, and that's why UNLV is a lock while Colorado will be fighting for its at-large life, up to and during the Big 12 tournament.

Dave in Atlanta writes: I'm not sure how Matt Painter has done a better job coaching this season than Thad Matta. I keep hearing that Painter should win coach of the year because Robbie Hummel was injured the first day of practice and Purdue is now a top 10 team and on their way to earning a No. 2 seed in the NCAA tournament. I'm not sure how losing a good player the first day of practice is all that different and more challenging than losing the National Player of the Year (Evan Turner) before the season and yet still managing to take your team to No. 1 and the likely No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA tournament. Why is Painter getting more credit for a less spectacular feat and less spectacular results than Matta, who is doing something this season that no one thought would be possible when Turner decided to leave school early? To me this isn't even close, Matta has the better team, had to replace a better player, and is hands down the most deserving candidate for Big Ten coach of the year.

Brennan: Here's the thing: Matta has been great, too. I wouldn't have much of a problem with him winning the Big Ten coach of the year award. He's built an awesome team, and you're right -- he did it after losing the national player of the year.

But in the words of Larry David, having said that ... I still think Painter's job has been more impressive. Matta replaced Turner with one of the best freshmen in the country. Painter didn't have any such luxury with Hummel. Instead, Painter had to rebuild his team from the inside out using spot guys like Lewis Jackson, Ryne Smith, D.J. Byrd and Kelsey Barlow. And about those expectations, there were a few people who thought Ohio State would be even better this year without Turner. I was one of them, even all the way back in June. Essentially, Matta replaced a national player of the year with another national player of the year candidate, one that fit better into Ohio State's overall team and gave the Buckeyes the sort of inside-out balance they sorely lacked last season.

Matta's done a great job facilitating that -- not to mention recruiting Jared Sullinger in the first place -- but the fact that Purdue could still win a share of the Big Ten title, given its talent, is much more remarkable to me.

Kimball High from Salt Lake City writes: Eamonn, why does Dave Rose not get any love for COY but Lavin, Fisher, etc. do? Is this a case of him getting lost in the Jimmer shadow (like Jackson Emery) or are they actually better candidates? Thanks and hope your roommates are stocking up for a great month.

Brennan: Actually, yes, Kimball, my roommates are stocking up for a big month. In fact, they just installed a second TV in the living room. They're ready.

Second, I think Rose deserves plenty of COY love alongside conference competitor Steve Fisher. That said, I think many expected BYU to be good this year, and they are, and high expectations -- even when met -- have a way of taking the stuffing out of an otherwise-worthy COY candidacy. But it's not like Rose hasn't been good. He's been great. He (and BYU fans) won't need an award to confirm that.

Dan in Indianapolis writes: Mark my words: ND will have a bad shooting night in the tournament, and get knocked out earlier than they should be based on their seed.

Brennan: Well, I suppose that's entirely possible. But you could say that about nearly any team in college basketball, couldn't you? Yes, teams that rely on spot shooting like Notre Dame can be especially vulnerable if they hit a slump, but making shots is the most crucial aspect of winning basketball. At this point, ND has given us very little reason to expect anything but continued offensive efficiency.

Joe in Ann Arbor, Mich. writes: Eamonn, big fan of your work. My question to you is: If Michigan manages to beat Michigan State on Saturday ... are they in the dance? Or do they need to beat Illinois in their first game of the Big Ten Tourney? Thanks!

Brennan: If Michigan beats Michigan State in Ann Arbor on Saturday, then yes, I think they're probably in. They're already one of Joe Lunardi's last four in, and a win against the Spartans will probably serve as a bigger boost than anything any of their fellow last-four members (Richmond, Boston College, and Memphis) can do before the regular season is out. If I'm a Michigan fan, I'd still like my team to make it official with a win or two in the Big Ten tournament, but if Selection Sunday was this week, and not next, and Michigan has added that Spartans win to their profile, then yes, they'd be in the tournament. They'd probably still be OK seven days later. But better safe than sorry, right?

Seth Olsen from Sioux Falls, S.D. writes: I'm a huge Gopher fan and have been all my life. Thank you for writing that this was supposed to be a great season. I totally agree with you on that. More importantly, I just want to tell everyone not to be a Minnesota fan of any team in any sport. They'll all let you down. The Twinkies always win the AL Central but get owned by the Yankees in the ALDS. The Wild just suck period. The Timberwolves are the same. The Vikings are, well, the Vikings. And then there's Gopher athletics. What a disappointing season. To think I had such high hopes for the Gophers to make the Sweet 16. Sigh.

Brennan: Remember, dear readers, that whenever you think your fandom can't get any worse, there's always someone out there in just as much pain. I'm not sure why other people's misery makes us feel better, but sometimes it's nice to know other parts of the country also feel your pain.

Reminder: Hoopsbag submissions!

January, 26, 2011
After a brief funeral-related hiatus last week, the Wednesday Hoopsbag returns for more Q-and-A fun Thursday afternoon. As always, there are a variety of ways to submit your questions, comments and snarky retorts. You can submit your question to the mailbag form here. You can also e-mail the blog, or send me a message via Twitter.

And now, because I'm just so technologically hip, you can also drop me a line at my public Facebook page. And "like" me, too, if you're looking for College Basketball Nation posts in your news feed. Mostly it's just another way to get in touch. As long as you don't poke me too often, I think it should go well.

You know the drill: Make your comments funny, passionate and smart. And, as always, thanks.
Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the blog. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter. Per the usual, let's begin with a video.

Jack from Durham writes: Just for fun: Say we're putting on a college basketball All-Star game, East vs. West. What are your starting lineups?

Eamonn Brennan: Now this is a great question. For the sake of organization (and because things might get a little lopsided otherwise) let's go ahead and lump the Big 12 in with the more prototypical West Coast conferences (Pac-10, Mountain West, et al.). The Big Ten will stay in the east. With that caveat aside, ladies and gentlemen, I now present the starting lineups (and reserves!) for your hastily assembled college basketball All-Star teams!

Guard: Kemba Walker, UConn
Guard: Nolan Smith, Duke
Forward: Terrence Jones, Kentucky
Forward: JaJuan Johnson, Purdue
Center: Jared Sullinger, Ohio State
Reserves: Kyle Singler, Duke; E'Twaun Moore, Purdue; Jon Leuer, Wisconsin; Demetri McCamey, Illinois; Rick Jackson, Syracuse; Draymond Green, Michigan State; Brad Wanamaker, Pittsburgh

Guard: Jimmer Fredette, BYU
Guard: Jordan Hamilton, Texas
Forward: Derrick Williams, Arizona
Forward: Kawhi Leonard, San Diego State
Center: Marcus Morris, Kansas
Reserves: Klay Thompson, Washington State; Markieff Morris, Kansas; Alec Burks, Colorado; LaceDarius Dunn, Baylor; Matthew Bryan-Amaning, Washington; Chace Stanback, UNLV; Jacob Pullen, Kansas State

Here's my question: Does that East team beat the Cleveland Cavaliers? I think it just might. The West would certainly give LeBron's tortured former franchise a game, too.

Anyway, as you can see, I tried to minimize exclusions by building out seven reserve spots. There still might be some deserving individual players left off the list; I tended to weigh these picks based on team success the same way NBA fans tend to vote for players having good seasons on good teams. Still, taken as a whole, I think this is a pretty representative sample of the players that have shined thus far this season. Got an example of a player I missed? Hit me up in the mailbag (or in the comments) and we can hammer out the details, blog-style.

Matt from Augusta, Ga., writes: Which of the top four (Duke, Kansas, Ohio State, Syracuse) do you see losing first?

Brennan: Well, it's not Duke. That much I know for sure. According to Pomeroy's projections, the Blue Devils have a better than 85 percent chance of winning 13 of their last 16 games, and they're heavily favored in pretty much every game the rest of the way. Ohio State's next three games are easy (at Michigan, versus Iowa and Penn State at home) before the Buckeyes travel to Champaign for a big one on Jan. 22. After home games with Iowa State and Nebraska this week, Kansas travels to Baylor Monday. And Syracuse plays St. John's in the Garden Wednesday night, versus Cincinnati at home Saturday, and then at Pittsburgh Monday.

Ending a three-games-in-five-days stretch with a road game is tough regardless of opponent. It's brutal when that opponent is Pittsburgh. In other words, I'll take Syracuse.

Ann from Seattle writes: If you could watch only one regular season game in person the rest of the year, which one would it be?

Suzanne from Provo, Utah writes: Eamonn, I'm actually the Event Manager at BYU's Marriott Center. What we're all wondering here is why you haven't booked a ticket out to Provo for our January 26 game v. SDSU. You could see your man-crush Jimmer in person in an epic battle. 22,700 strong will be in the house. You could also bring your roommate, Paul, but only if he promises to do his own dishes. I'll even give you some complimentary earplugs. :)

Brennan: Ah, the perfect case of one question answering another. I'm not sure BYU-SDSU in Provo is the single best game of the rest of the season, and I'd really like to take in a big game (versus Texas or Missouri, preferably) at Allen Fieldhouse. I've never been. It's a crime, really.

But yeah, seeing one game in person, if I had to choose, Cougars-Aztecs would be pretty tough to beat. Unfortunately, since my blog brother from another mother Diamond covers the West Coast hoops scene like smog covers L.A. (West Coast humor?), I'm afraid he'd be the one to get the nod. The big jerk.

Oh, and speaking of crimes, Paul never does the dishes. But he does do all the bills.

Jephri from Seattle writes: After Tuesday night's performance, can you think of another player more deserving of the POY award than Jimmer Fredette?

Brennan: It's getting pretty tough, isn't it? That said, I'm not sure Fredette is leaps and bounds above the rest of the field. Jared Sullinger continues to be a beast. Nolan Smith has been making a solid case for the nation's best team even without Kyrie Irving in the lineup. Terrence Jones hasn't gone anywhere. JaJuan Johnson and Jon Leuer remain two of the best, most efficient and most unheralded (relative to their ability) players in the country. And there's this guy named Kemba Walker at Connecticut. He's pretty good, too.

Is Fredette more deserving than any of them? It depends who you ask. But he's certainly near, or at, the top of my list.

Cameron from Galesburg, Ill., writes: How bout a little Ivy League? Harvard looks like legit, and like they'll get to dance this year for the first time ever. 50 Simpsons writers, like 8 presidents and no tournament bids. Some schools' priorities, right? I'm convinced the Ivy League will come down to the last game of the season with Princeton at Harvard. Do you have a pick there?

Brennan: Harvard has been the class of the Ivy League thus far, and when I took a look at the conference's Pomeroy stats, I expected them to be miles ahead of the rest of the league. But Princeton really isn't all that far behind. Given each team's schedule, I think Cameron's right, and if you want to talk about underrated college basketball viewing experiences, how about a Princeton-Harvard game with the Ivy League title and an NCAA tournament berth on the line? I can only hope the Winklevii would be in attendance, wittily debating whether they should boo the Tigers because they're "men of Harvard." (By the way, Harvard is exactly like the Social Network, right? No? What? Well that's disappointing.)

Kevin Wiley in West Lafayette, Ind., writes: A single loss against a team that is pretty decent in Wisconsin-Milwaukee really means nothing for long-time Butler followers such as myself. Check out Butlers stength of schedule, and their fine showing beating WSU in Hawaii. They turned around in just a few days and beat a fine Valpo team, then happened to hit this stumbling block. Ask anybody at the end of this season if they would want to play Butler in the first round of the NCAA tourney. Quit being a day trader. The Bulldogs are too well coached and way too smart.

Brennan: This question came in before Butler's big win over Cleveland State this weekend; that alone makes one feel more optimistic about the Bulldogs' chances of continuing their reign in the Horizon League and getting back to the NCAA tournament this season. That said, Kevin, your beloved Bulldogs don't play much defense. Defense was what got Butler to the national title game last season. This was never a good offense, even with an NBA player like Gordon Hayward running off screens; no, the Bulldogs always defended, and they're not doing that this year. Until Brad Stevens gets these Bulldogs to play something resembling the defense they displayed during last year's title -- and I'm not saying it won't happen -- then I'm going to stay short on Butler. (How's that for day trader lingo?)

Abe Warren from Missouri writes: Can you please explain the hype over Perry Jones? I just saw Chad Ford has Jones as the No. 1 pick in the upcoming draft. Seriously? He has never had a dominating season. Not even his senior year of high school. And his freshman year at Baylor has been good for a freshman (12 points, seven boards) but No. 1 overall? Does anyone really think he can hang with the likes of Love, Griffin, and Stoudemire? If he goes No. 1, I'm predicting the biggest draft bust in NBA history.

Brennan: Three points:

1. I agree. Jones has been pretty good so far this season for Baylor, but he hasn't been dominant in the same way as Jared Sullinger or Terrence Jones or Kyrie Irving (before Irving's injury, of course). That's irrefutable.

2. Frankly, what we think doesn't matter. NBA scouts don't like Jones because he's been so productive. NBA scouts like Jones because he's 6-foot-10 with a feathery jump shot and innate ballhandling ability. NBA scouts draft productive players who aren't especially imposing or athletic begrudgingly, because NBA scouts don't like to hit doubles. They like to hit home runs. Jones, if he pans out, could be a home run. And that's why he's the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. Production doesn't have much to do with it.

3. That said, if I'm an NBA scout and I have the No. 1 overall pick, I'm looking for a guy that can help me today. Not in two years or three or four. Today. I want Derrick Rose. I want John Wall. I want Kevin Durant. To me, Jones is the kind of guy that will need at least a year or two to develop in the NBA; he has to get much stronger, much more muscular, and more more refined to approach NBA stardom in the near future. Does that mean he'll be a bust? Not necessarily. But how patient do NBA general managers really want to be?

Brad from Ft. Worth, Texas, writes: Regarding the question from Tuesday's chat about the best rivalry game not currently on the schedule: Notre Dame vs. Purdue would have to be near the top of the list, given the success of the two programs and their proximity to one another. Fortunately, they are scheduled to play one another in 2012 at the 2nd Crossroads Classic (which all four schools should continue to participate in beyond the next two years, IMHO).

Brennan: Ooh, that's a good one. I couldn't think of any that currently exist that aren't on the schedule, but if you start getting creative with proximity, there are probably five more of these we could dream up. Leave yours in the comments or the mailbag, friends.
Just another weekly reminder (which usually come on Tuesday, but the earlier heads up can't hurt) to submit your questions, comments and the like for this week's version of the Wednesday Hoopsbag. You know the drill: Submit your question to the mailbag form here. You can also email the blog, or send me a message via Twitter. And as always, be funny, passionate and smart. (Like you needed me to tell you.)

(Oh, and since we're talking questions and answers, here's a heads up that I'll also be chatting at 2 p.m. ET tomorrow. Stop on by, friends. See you there.)

Reminder: Hoopsbag questions due

January, 4, 2011
Another week, another friendly reminder to submit your pertinent college basketball questions, arguments, rants and angry diatribes for the Wednesday Hoopsbag soon. After a month of tremendous questions, last week's entries were a little bit weak. (Hence the long diatribe about Enes Kanter and Kentucky fans.) Let's get back in the swing of things this week, shall we?

As always, you can submit your questions by using the form at this page, by e-mailing me, or by sending me a message on Twitter. And as always, thanks.

Reminder: Hoopsbag submissions due

December, 20, 2010
Because of a death in my family and the onrush of Christmas vacation, the blog schedule might run a little wacky this week. So here's an early reminder to submit your questions, comments, and errata for Wednesday's Hoopsbag as soon as possible. You can use the submission form here. You can also send me a message on Twitter. Or you can email the blog. Thanks in advance for participating. You guys are, as always, the best.
Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter. Per the usual, let's begin in video form.

After recapping Michigan State's thorough trouncing at the hands of an impressive Syracuse team last night, I asked Twitter followers the ever-perilous annual question: "Raise your hand if you're just a little bit -- even a little bit -- worried about Michigan State. Anyone?" (What, you thought I was referring to the Kevin Bacon Logitech commercial? Because, man, what a great commercial.) The response on MSU was immediate, thorough, and altogether pretty diverse. A sampling of responses:
@Slicknickshady: "Nope. Not at all. Like this every year. Izzo treats these like pre season games. They really don't matter. Sure I would love to see them win more of these games and im sure izzo would. But you don't hang banners for beating Connecticut, Duke, and Syracuse in Nov./Dec. Wins would be nice. But oh well."

@Duvisited: "Worried, no. But they may be what they were last year - a good but not great team, a five seed, not a top-five team."

@SteveLayman: "I'll raise my hand. But, I sort of feel like Izzo's standing at the front of staring through me, saying, 'doubting me? Ha!'"

@raphiellej: "I don't know if I like the basketball IQ of the guys on the court right now. (Besides Draymond Green.) Have faith in Coach Izzo though."

@jeffborzello: "Been worried since the preseason -- more so now."

@johnkirby: "No, I was just stretching."

@BuffJE: "Raise your hand if you've been worried about Michigan State in December before, only to see them eventually make another Final Four."

Mr. BuffJE makes the salient point. If this were any other team, or any other coach, the Spartans' bandwagon would currently be experiencing mass departures. Because Michigan State seems to do this almost every year -- comes into the season highly ranked, sputters against a brutal nonconference schedule, falters against top competition -- and still manages to pull it together come tournament time leads us to believe that it's all part of Izzo's master plan.

It's a weird analytical situation. Do we judge by precedent, or by what we see on the court? Where do you draw the line? I'd argue there are three overriding parameters to always remember when discussing this Michigan State season at its current juncture:

1.) You never want to count a good team out in December.

2.) You never, ever want to count a talented Spartans team out in December.

3.) This Spartans team has three losses, all of which came to top ten teams in neutral or road environments.

4.) Even understanding Nos. 1-3, I still have my worries about the Michigan State Spartans.

Why No. 4? Because Michigan State didn't just get beat last night. They were, in some ways, exposed. They were unable to get the ball into Syracuse's zone for almost the entire first half. They were unable to stop Syracuse's dribble penetration. Against a team that still hasn't shot the ball well, Michigan State's bigs gave up way too many layups and dunks: 28 of Syracuse's 58 shot attempts were either layups or dunks, and the 'Cuse converted 20 of those 28 attempts. Syracuse shot 5-of-27 from the field when forced to take jumpers. The Spartans couldn't make that happen frequently enough to win.

And then, of course, there are the turnovers. It almost feels like a cliché to say the Spartans are struggling with turnovers, but they are. They had another 25 percent turnover rate at MSG Tuesday night, in line with their season average of 25.1 percent. While some of those turnovers can be credited to Syracuse's stifling zone defense, Michigan State frankly gave the ball away with little provocation numerous times last night, numerous times against Duke, and plenty of times in its other seven games so far this season. This has been a trend common among all of Michigan State's performances, so it's clear where the blame lies.

These are big problems. Michigan State deserves the benefit of the doubt, not only because of Izzo and the Spartans' past, but because there's simply too much talent on this team to write it off this early. But it's fair to worry about Michigan State going forward.

Question time: Can they be a Final Four team by the end of the year? Sure. Did they look like one last night? Not even close. Is Dec. 8 too soon to make rash judgements about a team with history of lame starts and strong finishes? Absolutely. Should MSU fans be a little worried anyway? I'd say so.

Tom Beno from Washington, D.C. writes: Do you think Michigan State was being given too much credit for their Final Four appearance last season? Every major publication dubbed them the clear cut No. 2 team in the nation coming in to the season. It seemed like analysts thought, '2010 Final Four team only losing 2 players and bringing in 3 top 100 guys, oh these guys are going to be good.' There was a reason MSU was a No. 5-seed last year heading into the tournament, and people are forgetting that because they made the Final Four.

Eamonn Brennan: Well, we should probably all just admit that preseason rankings are kind of silly. I mean, the reasons for them are valid -- it's a nice quick-glance way to look at who's supposed to be good in the coming months -- but the execution is always a little off. Teams get way too much credit for returning players (Florida) and highly touted freshmen (North Carolina); teams with big names get higher rankings than those with obscure conference affiliations. But then again, what else is there? Before the season starts, how are we supposed to know? The calculus always comes down to: Team X has Y returning players, plus Z recruiting class. Solve for: They're going to be good. For the purposes of the casual fan, I'm not sure if there's a better way.

That said, I disagree. Michigan State deserved to be the No. 2 team in the country coming in to the season. One, they went to the Final Four. Two, they did it with their best player in a medical boot. Three, they returned that player and pretty much everyone else. Four, who else was going to be No. 2? No, the Spartans were ranked properly. They have plenty of time to prove it, but they haven't do so thus far.

Ryan from Albany, N.Y. writes: Might be time to start giving Jimmy Boeheim some love. He loses three stars from last year's team and according your pre-game commentary Syracuse wasn't that good of a team this year. Then they go out and dismantle Michigan St. Oh, and by the way, Jimmy B is 5-1 against Izzo.

Brennan: It was also Boeheim's fourth win in a row over Izzo and the Spartans. As for giving "Jimmy B" (Boeheim is now apparently a Sopranos character) some "love," well, is that really necessary? After all, the man did win national coach of the year honors last season, and as he was doing so pretty much everyone was marveling at the fact that Boeheim had never been named coach of the year once before during his career. That had more to do with the vagaries of "coach of the year" awards than with the man himself, but the point remains: People are well aware Jim Boeheim is a very, very good coach. He has another very, very good team, a team that made a major statement after some early-season growing pains, and one that might gradually get better once it manages to find a consistent outside shot. I think Boeheim will get all the love he deserves this season and more.

@maggiehendricks writes: What is more likely to happen: My Missouri Tigers making the Final Four or Kim English being named the U.S. Poet Laureate?

Brennan: I'm going to go with the Final Four. Mizzou has looked plenty capable thus far this season, Mike Anderson is an excellent tournament coach, and Kim English is too focused on basketball to spend time worrying about poetry right now. (Plus, the poet laureate process is SO political.)

@DevineBoston writes: How hearty should my laughs at Providence College's 9-1 record be? Regular Campbell's Soup hearty or Chunky hearty?

Brennan: In so far as the degree of heartiness correlates to your disbelief in the Friars, I'm going to go with Chunky. How did we miss Providence's nonconference schedule? It's as bad as bad gets: Keno Davis's team has played no true road games and no high-major opponents. The closest they've come is a win over rebuilding Rhode Island at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. Mmm. Dunkin' Donuts. I could go for a donut right now.

Wait, what was I saying? Oh, right. Providence's record. Chunky. As in: don't get too excited.

@rmj_equals_hero writes: Is Virginia better than expectations more than Virginia Tech is worse than expectations?

Brennan: I'm not 100 percent sure how to answer this one. It kind of tied my brain into knots. So let's go with this: To my mind, Virginia has created the wider gap between preseason baseline expectation and current performance. Virginia Tech got a lot of love this preseason, but the Hokies also have a depleted front line, and for all the talk of Va. Tech challenging Duke and getting to the NCAA tournament, this was and is the same team that went to the NIT last season. Virginia has one bad loss (Stanford) and two understandable ones (Washington and Wichita State). But it's getting hard to argue that the Cavaliers have enough to compete and win on the road in the ACC this season. In fact, they've already done it. Is Virginia a tournament team? No. But they're playing much better than anyone could have expected.

Craig from Bowling Green, Ohio writes: Yo Eamonn! I know it's early in the week for Hoopsbag, but I wanted to ask while I was thinking about it. After some early season success, are Nebraska and Iowa State better than predicted? Or is the competition inflating their records? Thanks!

Brennan: Enthusiasm, people. It'll get you in the Hoopsbag every time.

As for the answer, Craig, well ... can it be both? Neither team has played a particularly daunting schedule, and both teams have lost to marginal opponents here and there. Nebraska fell to Davidson; Iowa State lost to UNI and Cal. But both teams have also, like Virginia above, looked a lot better than anyone could reasonably expect. Nebraska has a win over USC, which beat Texas at home, so go figure. And Iowa State has been especially impressive. Though the Cyclones don't own any marquee wins, both aforementioned losses were hard-fought single-digit affairs, and the Cyclones aren't messing around with lesser opponents, either. In fact, ISU is blowing them out.

Neither team is anywhere near the bubble yet; both teams are likely to struggle in the Big 12. But when you're expected to be as bad as both teams -- and especially Iowa State -- were to begin this season, these early results should be downright encouraging.
Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this here Hoopsbag. To submit a query, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter. Per the usual, let's begin in video form.

For the sake of efficiency, let's group some of the more popular subjects together:

Chris from Columbia, Mo. writes: Whew! Was that Missouri Georgetown game fun! Even though the Tigers got an L do you believe they are for real after that game in Kansas City?

Bruce from Downington, Pa. writes: Eamonn, I thought Georgetown-Mizzou game Tuesday night was Best. Early-Season. Game. Ever. After watching so much slop during Thanksgiving, it was refreshing seeing guys playing full-court pressure, making the extra pass, draining jumpers from everywhere, etc. Basketball the way I like it, at least. Do you see Georgetown trying to play this up-tempo once conference play starts ... because they sure looked comfortable running both "Princeton" and "Mizzou" style basketball last night.

Eamonn Brennan: You know a game is good when you open the Hoopsbag inbox and the first thing you see is a bunch of emails about how good said game was. No question Missouri-Georgetown was the best game we've seen so far this season, not only in terms of sheer excitement -- the back-and-forth runs, Georgetown somehow forcing overtime, that last-second 3 -- but in how well the game was played on both ends of the floor.

What do you make of both teams in the aftermath? I think it's all positive. The Hoyas again showed they can go on the road (the Sprint Center versus Missouri definitely counts as a road game) and eke out tough wins against quality competition; thus far, Georgetown has risen to the strength of its brutal nonconference schedule, and it'll be rewarded come seed time in March. Missouri showed that for all its youth and turnover last season, it is a team already well-attuned to Mike Anderson's system. (The best example came when Marcus Denmon finished a fast-break layup to put the Tigers up by four with less than a minute to play in regulation. In that situation, most teams would have grabbed that long rebound and held the ball as long as possible, but Missouri instinctively ran a break and got an easy bucket, because that's what Missouri wants to do all the time.) It was an impressive performance from both teams.

One had to lose, but if you're a Mizzou fan, I don't think you walk away from that game the least bit discouraged. Your team looked awfully good, too. (And if Tony Mitchell can get eligible and give the Tigers some legitimate size, look out.)

As for Georgetown, I wouldn't look for John Thompson III to change his style much this season. The Hoyas like to slow the game down, run their Princeton style, wear you down with backcuts, and get open 3s for Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. That process was sped up out of necessity Tuesday night, but it'll be back to down-tempo hoops for G'town in no time.

Jad from St. Joseph, Mo. writes: Why is everyone afraid to call it as it is when NCAA officials blow it on national TV? The whole nation watched as the officials had their heads up their butts and let a 3-pointer stand at the end of the first half. In the real world, mistakes are corrected. In the real world, Missouri wins at end of regulation by 3. Hard fought game ... for sure. Two very good teams ... yes. But in the end the game was decided by poor officiating and the better team (this night) lost. It's time the NCAA holds such officials accountable and start handing out a few fines and suspensions. You and I are payed based on the quality of our performance and not the frequency of our excuses. The NCAA should except nothing less from their officials.

Brennan: That was a bad call, yes, but it's hard to say that one call in the first half of any game totally affects that game's outcome. Sort of a butterfly effect theory: Any number of things can change in 20 minutes of hoops based on even the slightest change in scoreline. That said, Georgetown was incredibly lucky at the end of regulation when it tried to foul -- yes, foul -- Kim English just after the inbounds play. English was clearly grabbed in an "hey I'm trying to foul this guy" way, but the referees let it slide. English's heave missed, and the rest was history. But the Hoyas were supremely lucky to not have given up two foul shots there.

Blake from D.C. writes: Hey Eamonn, I hate to disrupt the nice contempt for Wake you're stewing this season, and I know it's easy to kick a down team, but maybe tone down snarkiness and cut Wake some slack? I don't think most sportswriters would trash a team that they expected to lose, but which actually went on a 21-6 run to start the second half and came back to win by 3, so badly. I mean, seriously, not one positive comment? I wouldn't have chosen that approach to writing a recap. Unless I were Eamonn Brennan, I guess. Hey, whatever works.

Robert from Greenville, N.C. writes: You don't like Wake, I can handle that, but your childish comments are exactly that, immature, and extremely childish. Jeez, didn't your mother ever tell you if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all?

Brennan: Wake Forest fans are not happy with yours truly. To be fair, I was probably a little too harsh on the Demon Deacons even after what was a definitively exciting win Tuesday night over Iowa. I'll grant you that. But, since we're here, let's make one thing clear, something college hoops readers of all stripes seem to believe at an alarming rate: We (writers) don't actively dislike any program. At least I don't. There's no animosity here. If Wake had played a brilliant game, or had opened their season with a series of impressive wins, I'd be the first person singing its praises. Same with Iowa.

The bottom line is that Wake's win, while certainly thrilling, was a sloppy, ugly affair, and it ended on a shot (albeit one by a streaking J.T. Terrell) that would make most college hoops coaches sweat through their designer wool. If I was a Wake fan, I'd have seen the same game, and I'd feel the same way. If I was a Wake fan, I'd take a thrilling home win over rebuilding Iowa -- and the way the Deacons celebrated afterward -- as a sign of how temporarily far my program had fallen. And if I was a Wake fan, I wouldn't want someone to obligatorily say nice things about my team because we just beat Iowa -- Iowa! -- by three at home. What is this, tee-ball?

Rick Ferguson from Alexandria, Va. writes: Surprise, surprise. Virginia won. Who would have thunk it? It's easy to be harsh, but sometimes it stings when things go the other way. Virginia's hot hand b****-slapped you. However, no one would have called the 58 point second half. Maybe the Cavs, have some future here.

Alex from Charlottesville, Va. writes: Looks like you'll have to eat your words Mr. Eamonn Brennan. Minnesota "Ruh-Roh?" I don't think so. I do appreciate the subtle jabs at UVA in your article, however. It makes it that much sweeter that we won. I guess its not important to the Big Ten - ACC challenge that an unranked, three-loss team, playing six freshmen, upset the No. 13-ranked team in the country. Not important at all. Try harder next time.

Daniel from Chesapeake, Va. writes: Eamonn, great call on the Minnesota vs. UVA game! I really did see [Monday] night "how bad" this Virginia was in Tony Bennett's second year. UVA is a very young team that is learning a new defensive system. I suspect that we will see continued improvement on the defensive end as the year progresses. [Monday] night was certainly a step in the right direction, no?

Brennan: "Hey, you picked against our team! The one that was easily handled by Wichita State and blown out by Stanford! Now you have to eat your words! Take that, evil Virginia-hating writer guy!"

Don't get me wrong: Virginia's upset of Minnesota was a great win for Bennett and company, and yes, it was unequivocally a step in the right direction. That's indisputable. What's not indisputable is whether it was a fluke. Considering Virginia missed only three of its 13 3-point attempts (and, yes, scored 58 points in the second half!) perhaps we should hold off on crowning UVa just yet. The Cavaliers might be better than advertised, and Minnesota might be a bit worse, but there's a reason no one picked Virginia to win that game.

It's OK. If I was a Virginia fan, I'd be thoroughly enjoying the fact that we just won a game no one expected us to win, too. Enjoy it, guys.

Greg from Schaumburg, Ill. writes: As someone who lives in Chicago, does it bother you that ESPN always refers to Loyola University Chicago as Loyola (IL)? As the Ramblers are off to a 7-0 start, we may see their name more often (in the list of undefeated in the weekly watch, for example), and it would be nice to see them correctly referenced.

Brennan: I have to say, of all the things in the world that bother me, this one was not on the list.

Lazarus from New York writes: Bruce Pearl admits to lying to the NCAA and doesn't get fired. Does every Tennessee student get one free pass to cheat on an exam? If Pearl had a losing record, he would've been axed in a second. The University of Tennessee used this "teaching moment" to impart a clear lesson to its students: Winning and revenue-generation is more important than honesty and integrity.

Brennan: First, the student cheating analogy doesn't quite work, because most students caught cheating at most colleges (and I'm obviously generalizing here) are usually given a failing grade or, at worst, a brief academic suspension. That's essentially what the SEC gave Pearl when it suspended him from the league's first eight conference games. Tennessee also punished Pearl with off-campus recruiting restrictions and heavy financial penalties. The parallels aren't quite perfect there.

As for whether Pearl deserves to be fired, that's basically a matter of opinion, right? If you take the coach's story at face value, then yes, Pearl lied to NCAA investigators, but he also took it upon himself to reconvene with the NCAA and correct his lie of his own volition. Does that count for anything? I'm not sure it does, but I am sure that Pearl's winning record has something to do with Tennessee's willingness to let the NCAA investigation play out before deciding whether or not the coach should be terminated.

Nolan Bratt from Racine, Wis. writes: Even though Wisconsin lost two games already to two unranked teams, do you think they will be to rebound and rise up there with Michigan St., Ohio State, Purdue, and Illinois? I know its early, but I am an avid Badger fan myself, and I thought that their rank at No. 24 to start the year was pretty low. I think when conference games start, we will have better chances versus better teams to get better. What do you think?

Brennan: Wisconsin hasn't looked all that convincing thus far, that's for sure. But there are a few things working in the Badgers' favor. For one, they're a great rebounding team, and that's a skill that can carry you a long way in a conference like the Big Ten. Two, they play at the Kohl Center, and for whatever reason, opposing Big Ten teams find it incredibly difficult to win there. Three, Bo Ryan's teams tend to improve -- though not as dramatically as, say, Tom Izzo's -- over the course of the year. I'm not at all sold on Wisconsin to date, but it's hard to imagine that team too far out of the Big Ten race once the conference season heats up.

JM from Charlotte writes: What do you think about the Tar Heels' struggles this year? Are we in for a repeat of last season or do you see them turning it around? Should they have dropped out of the top 25?

Brennan: I wrote about UNC's struggles Tuesday night, so you check there for a bit more detail, but the bottom line is this: Right now, North Carolina looks all too similar to last year's team. They're disjointed and confused on offense and occasionally lackluster on defense. Harrison Barnes hasn't been the game-changer that most of us thought he would be, based on his lofty recruiting accolades and the multi-dimensional talent he showed against college big men on the camp circuit this summer. Instead, he's been sort of invisible. That's partially his fault -- he needs to attack more and defer less -- and partially the fault of UNC's scheme, which seems to get him the ball in disadvantageous positions on almost every catch. How many times have you seen Barnes catch the ball on the wing, fake once or twice, try to make an entry pass, and then pass the ball back to the top of the key? 50? 100? It happens all the time, and it's not helping anyone, least of all North Carolina.

Throw in the continuing point guard problems, and you've got a team with tons of individual talent that can't seem to find a way to gel. It's weird to watch, and it's disconcerting, even this early in the year.

Uh, and yes. They should have dropped out of the top 25. No question.

Reminder: Hoopsbag submissions

November, 29, 2010
Since the Hoopsbag was hampered by last week's trip to the CBE Classic, let's do this reminder thing again: To have your well-composed and thoughtful prose appear in Wednesday's mailbag, submit your questions, comments, and other errata using the submission form under my big head in the upper-right-corner of this page. You can also e-mail and hit me up on Twitter. It's just that easy.

You know that guy that thinks about sending in his questions, but then gets distracted by some shiny thing that just popped up on his computer ("Lady Gaga popup poll? I'm in!") and forgets? Yeah. Don't be that guy.

Hoopsbag: Answering our mail

November, 10, 2010
Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments and nonsensical rants in this space. To submit, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You can also e-mail me or send me your entries via Twitter. Per the usual, let's begin with in video form.

Matt B. from Philadelphia, Pa.: Many of the early-season tournaments have received criticism by trying to pass off what is essentially a four team tournament as a 12 or 16 team tournament. When sifting through schedules this year, however, I discovered something far worse, the Global Sports Invitational. This is not a tournament at all, but simply a five-team round-robin agreement between Ohio State, Florida, and three mid and low majors. Each team has all of their games scheduled in advance, and as far as I can tell based off of last year, there is no official champion. This is purely an excuse for these teams to get up to 31 games and for OSU and Florida to get three extra guarantee games on the schedule. I know the automatic advance system is bad, but at least those tournaments have a champion and somewhat of a tournament feel. This is ridiculous. If this sort of thing is acceptable, the NCAA should just allow teams to schedule 31 games no matter what. How has this slid under the radar without being called out?

Eamonn Brennan: That's an awfully good question. As a practice, it's pretty egregious; as far as I can tell, the Global Sports Invitational has done a rather remarkable thing: It's renamed a bunch of otherwise run-of-the-mill non-conference games and called it a tournament. (Though Florida-OSU this season is far from "run of the mill.") It's not exactly the world's most subtle game of semantics. The next time I play pickup basketball, I'm going to call it the "Eamonn Brennan Invitational," and I'm going to see if I can pick up some corporate sponsorship along the way. It just might work.

That said, the GSI fits the criteria of a multi-team event, which makes it exempt. And really, what's the difference between a tournament that automatically sends four pre-determined teams to an elimination round and a "tournament" that basically just gets rid of the pretense altogether? There is a distinction, but it's a pretty minor one. And anyway, This is the road we've been heading down since the multi-team event rule was changed in 2007, and it was only a matter of time until smart people did away with the automatic advance system and just called their tournament a "round-robin." As lame as it is, you kind of have to hand it to them. It's impressive stuff.

Justin from Boston, Mass. writes: Will Duke's backcourt next year be the greatest of all time? It may seem like a crazy notion, but assuming Kyrie Irving stays (big assumption, but with a lockout looming it is possible) it would be Irving, Austin Rivers, Quinn Cook, Andre Dawkins, Seth Curry, and Tyler Thornton. That would have to be one of the best ever right?

Brennan: Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. Slow down, champ.

Yes, that Duke backcourt would be insanely good; Coach K could start all five, tell them to play like the Mike D'Antoni Suns, and probably win 20 games. It's a silly amount of talent. But the best backcourt ever? Really? The entire premise is based on potential: We've yet to see Irving, Rivers, Cook, Curry, or Thornton play a single minute for the Blue Devils, and Dawkins struggled to get minutes for much of his freshman year. I'm not saying those players won't be great, because there's no reason to expect otherwise. But anointing a backcourt that to this point has grand total of 4.4 points per game under its belt ... well, let's just settle a little bit, shall we? (Not to mention focus on this year's Duke backcourt, which will be awfully good as well.)

Terry Esser from Waterloo, Iowa writes: Hey Eamonn, you still thinking Iowa is going winless in the Big Ten after yesterday's exhibition where the Hawkeyes scored 111 points. You better start changing your predictions because your completely an idiot to think we won't win a game you jerk if you don't.

Brennan: Best. Email. Ever. Usually, I like to fix up people's minor grammatical boo-boos before publishing their comment, but for you, Terry, I'm going to go ahead and leave them in.

Two things: You can't call someone an idiot if one of the words preceding the word "idiot" is an incorrectly used version of "your." "Your" is possessive; "you're," or "you are" is what you were looking for there. I'll have to consult the handbook, but I'm pretty sure this is, like, Internet Rule No. 5.

Second, I'm having trouble finding where I said Iowa would go winless in the Big Ten this season. (I'm not being sarcastic; I really can't find it.) It's possible I wrote that at some point this offseason, though it seems a little out of character for me, but I don't recall it. (With the whole "if you don't" at the end, it seems Terry is slightly uncertain about this as well.) Either way, a 111-point effort in a win over Division-II Illinois-Springfield wouldn't change my mind. Iowa proved they can play fast, which is good to see. But Terry, another word of advice: You should really wait until your team plays and beats a real, actual Division I opponent before you start crowing to everyone with an email inbox about how Iowa won't go winless in the Big Ten this season. I mean, just read that sentence again. Come on now.

Rich Cain from Denver, Colo. writes: Eamonn, I am extremely disappointed that you would refer to any type of point shaving as "rather morally harmless." There really isn't any such thing as a morally harmless case of point shaving. Players that do so not only betray their teammates and jeopardize their amateur standing, but they risk physical harm and the safety of their families. Undoubtedly, organized crime is behind any point shaving scheme. These people do not care who you are. If you fail to do what they want you to do, they will make you pay one way or another. In your position you have a responsibility to fully understand a topic such as this. Even if you are being tongue-in-cheek, referring to point shaving as anything less than 100 percent wrong is irresponsible of you or any other writer. The exploitation of the athletes by the schools and others is no justification for athletes shaving points. That is a different subject. (I think the concept of amateurism is corrupt and ought to be abandoned by colleges, by the way.) I encourage you to look into point shaving and what actually happens in these situations and then write about it.

Brennan: Take notes, Terry: That's how you write a letter disagreeing with something someone wrote. Rich, you're right. I didn't mean to make light of the idea of shaving points, even in a tongue-in-cheek manner. The sentence Rich is referring to is this:
After all, 75.3 percent of players presented with that rather morally harmless scenario -- lopping a few points off a non-conference laugher -- still said they wouldn't ever shave points.

My point wasn't to make it seem like point-shaving was no big deal. I think everyone knows going in to any discussion that starts with the words "point-shaving" means you're going to be talking about morally dubious situations. My only point was that the scenario given by ESPN the Mag for its question asking college players whether they'd shave points was one in which the harm to the fabric of college basketball itself would be seductively minimal. Chop five points off a 40-point blowout? If someone came to you with a bag full of $100,000 and told you that's all you had to do to get the other half of your money, you'd probably think twice. Maybe I'm a bad person for admitting this, but I know I would need some time to think it over.

What you're really talking about are the real-world, practical problems that come with point-shaving: organized crime, threats of violence to family and friends, loss of a career, loss of teammates and mentors, the stain on one's reputation that would never wash out. All of those things are perfectly valid. I think we can all agree that shaving points is a really, really bad idea. My only point was that, at least in a vacuum, with the example given, I could understand why some players said "yes."

Kyrk Peponakis, Queens, N.Y. writes: I am part time Division-II head basketball coach at Queens College in New York City [ed. note: it's true!] and the July recruiting period is the best time for a small school like myself to see as many players as possible. Taking that away will hurt smaller schools with smaller budgets. Its the best time to evaluate a lot of kids at once. I am a high school teacher during the year and would not have the time to recruit during the year.

Brennan: I'm pretty sure almost every coach hates the idea of getting rid of the July evaluation period -- they want to see players live, they want to see them against other top AAU competition, they want to see all the best kids at once, etc. -- but this is one of the few times I've heard that perspective coming from someone at a smaller college. It makes sense. Thanks for emailing, Coach.

Brandon from Lexington, Ky. writes: I think I may be the only sane fan in Big Blue Nation. That being said, even I am getting fed-up with the Enes Kanter decision. I understand they are going to be setting a huge precedent with their ruling ... but come on! When do you think can we expect an answer?

Brennan: It's the one thing I can write with any certainty about the Enes Kanter decision: I don't know. Yes, the NCAA is going to be setting a major precedent with how they decide on his case, and that could be one cause for the holdup, but also remember that Josh Selby isn't eligible yet, either. There's also the case of Renardo Sidney, which happened just last season: Mississippi State kept expecting a resolution to Sidney's case throughout the 2009-10 season and didn't get it until that season was almost over. It's not impossible -- though it seems unlikely -- that a similar situation could befall Kanter's case. The NCAA is in no rush to push Kanter along. Same goes for Selby. I wouldn't hold my breath.

James Chinelo, Auburn, Wash. writes: Tom Crean's 16-46 win-loss record is the worst of any coach in IU history. And for some reason, Sampson will be continuously blamed for Crean's downfall at IU. In your Indiana Blueblood Bounceback piece, one fan commented that Davis had the darkest years at IU. I disagree, the dark years were with Sampson, and Crean will eventually top Sampson's dark years withpoor recruiting and further dissappointing seasons.

Brennan: I'm not sure why you'd think that, James. I mean, the part about Crean's current won-loss record is true, but it's hardly a valid barometer of his coaching ability or indicative of his history as a head coach. The Sampson fiasco and ensuing roster attrition pushed Crean's rebuilding task back by a year, at least. He's already landed one good recruiting class (2009's, lest we forget) and is likely to have two more good ones on the way in 2011 and 2012. Maybe those classes fall through, and maybe Crean doesn't move the program forward in the next two or three years, but given the way his IU tenure started, it's far too early for such rash judgements. (It kind of just seems like you don't like Tom Crean.)

And, finally, our last question of the day. @BIAHTheTrizzle writes: Better beard: Giants closer Brian Wilson or Jacob "The People's Champ" Pullen?

Brennan: I don't think it's even a question: Pullen. For one, Brian Wilson was funny like a year ago, when he was going on Jim Rome and claiming he got fined by Major League Baseball for "having too much awesome on his feet." Since then, Wilson's act has gotten a little bit grating. Yes, we get it, you're wacky, you say goofy things, you seem like a chill bro. Great.

But the real reason it's Jacob Pullen is because Jacob Pullen's beard is real. Wilson famously died his black, which is probably part of the reason that beard was awesome -- never underestimate the power of a good facial joke seen through to its logical conclusion -- but Pullen's is naturally thick, robust, and intimidating. Pullen wins.

Reminder: The Hoopsbag cometh

November, 9, 2010
The Hoopsbag took a week off last week thanks to some meetings in Bristol at the mothership, but we're back again this week for another go. That means now's the time to submit your questions, comments and other rhetorical detritus here. You can also e-mail the blog here, or send me message on Twitter here. The season is starting, the fun is just beginning, and we've got oh-so-much to talk about.
Another Tuesday, another one-day reminder: Be sure to send in your questions, comments, and rants for inclusion in tomorrow's Hoopsbag. Last week's entries were quite possibly the best yet. Can you top them? Oh, snap, I think I just issued a challenge. IT'S ON!

You can submit them via the form here. You can also hit me on Twitter or send me an email. And, as always, thanks.