Category archive: Villanova Wildcats

NEW YORK -- Officials Brian O'Connell and Bo Boroski huddled around the monitor. They asked for more replays of a trap on Purdue's D.J. Byrd and the subsequent raised elbow that sent Villanova's Darrun Hilliard flailing back onto the court.

The two officials stepped back again, conferred and after another moment or two, called Bert Smith, the third official, to have a look. There was another conference before O'Connell finally made the call.

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D.J. Byrd
AP Photo/Jason DeCrowThis play involving Purdue's D.J. Byrd and Villanova's Darrun Hilliard turned the game around.

He signaled for a flagrant 1 on Byrd. It was his fifth foul. The Boilermakers were ahead 75-71 at the time. Villanova got two shots and the ball.

The Wildcats ended up making four free throws after another foul on Terone Johnson away from the ball.

The end result was an overtime game, which ended with Villanova pulling away and winning 89-81.

It was one semifinal on a Thursday night in mid-November. But it signified plenty for a rebuilding Purdue, a suddenly surging Villanova, and for the way in which a point of emphasis could be called in the future.

"I don't like the rule,'' said Villanova coach Jay Wright. "I don't think the refs like the rule.''

Officials have ruled that if an elbow strikes a player from the shoulders and above as he attempts to clear space then it's likely going to be called. Hilliard and Achraf Yacoubou were trapping Byrd in front of Villanova's bench. Byrd, who had played a terrific game with 16 points, was being swallowed up and had to clear an area to get a sightline to make a pass.

"It's obviously the worst thing that could happen,'' said a despondent Byrd. "The rule is if the elbow comes above where it's not supposed to then it's a flagrant 1. They got it right. It obviously wasn't intentional but that's the way the game goes.''

Byrd said he simply caught Hilliard in the wrong spot. He said he could only see Yacoubou but not Hilliard when he turned.

"I put myself in a difficult situation and it feels like that was the game,'' said Byrd. "I feel terrible.''

"I got hit,'' said Hilliard. "In the heat of the moment it didn't hurt but he caught me in the chin. Coach told me to keep my hands off him but he flung his elbow and he hit me and I fell back. It was a great call.''

The problem may not be with the call itself but more so by how long it took the officials to come up with a consensus. It wasn't conclusive on the multitude of replays and the officials spent an inordinate amount of time deciding. Purdue coach Matt Painter challenged it during the game, but didn't in the postgame. Byrd accepted responsibility.

"I didn't think it was a flagrant,'' said Johnson. "There was a lot of emotion there and we were waiting to see as they were reviewing it whether we got the call or not. We had to keep our composure.''

Purdue wasn't able to hold its ground late in the game and ultimately the physicality, which Purdue defined, turned against the Boilermakers. Purdue mirrors its coach and Painter has turned the Boilers into a gritty bunch. But losing to Bucknell at home and now to 'Nova in the 2K Sports Classic semifinals at Madison Square Garden may indicate a longer season. Purdue will fight this season, but if the Boilers can't be composed and finish games then they can't reach the top half of a loaded Big Ten.

Villanova was a complete afterthought in the Big East this season and in large part because Wright had no idea what he had. He knew freshman guard Ryan Arcidiacono was a stud if he made shots. He knew he had a strong guard who could excite the Main Line. But he had no clue if his squad -- without a preseason star -- had any toughness whatsoever.

Now he knows.

And the rest of the Big East will find out soon enough.

This was as physical a game as has been played in this brief season and the Wildcats won the fight.

"I see great potential in this group,'' said Wright. "I see a lot of work, too.''

Wright said the physicality of the Purdue game can't be duplicated in practice because 'Nova's eighth, ninth and 10th players can't come close to a team like the Boilermakers.

"No matter how much you say in practice, they don't understand it,'' said Wright. "This will be a great lesson for us. We learned you've got to be strong with every play.''

Who knows if any of the four teams at the 2K Classic will be NCAA-worthy -- Alabama outlasted Oregon State earlier. But this snapshot a week before Thanksgiving gave us a strong indicator.

Villanova grew up Thursday night. And if the Wildcats can translate that into consistent play in January and February then it might be due to the physical style they had to play to beat Purdue. There are season-changing games for teams, even this early.

We may have witnessed one for Villanova.

There's no sugarcoating the rebuilding job Jay Wright has ahead of him at Villanova.

"It's definitely a challenging time for us," said Wright, whose Wildcats finished with a stunningly pedestrian 13-19 overall record, 5-13 in the Big East.

"We've got a good core, we're confident in our system," Wright said. "We've got to build it again and prove ourselves again like we did when we came in. There's no shame in proving yourself. We've got to start over. We're not afraid of that. We've got the confidence in our system and our guys. That's where we are and what we're going to do."

The Wildcats have lost players to the NBA before, but Wright took a more unusual hit this offseason when his starting guards and top two scorers -- juniors Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek -- declared for the NBA draft. Neither were selected.

"A lot of these kids are told they're going to be drafted," Wright said. "Both of them expected to be drafted. It's a real challenge in our business now -- to try and educate these kids the best we can."

Villanova, which has flourished under Wright on the perimeter, will have one of the more inexperienced backcourts in the Big East.

"Inexperienced guards are usually difficult challenges," Wright said.

The Wildcats will lean on James Bell, Ty Johnson, freshman Ryan Arcidiacono and Wake Forest transfer Tony Chennault, who is eligible immediately. The returnees aren't household names but the latter two come in with a bit more buzz.

"That's a core group right there," Wright said. "It gives us a really good backcourt."

The Wildcats will lean heavily on forwards Mouphtaou Yarou and JayVaughn Pinkston. If Bell and Johnson play up to their potential and Arcidiacono is a star, then the Wildcats at least have a core to survive.

Wright is cautiously optimistic.

"We can be a contender for an NCAA tournament spot," said Wright. "If I'm being optimistic than [Bell and Arcidiacono] will play like experienced players. And if they do then we have a chance to be good."

Wright has won 12 NCAA tournament games at Villanova. He has coached the Wildcats to a Final Four. The Wildcats are arguably the most popular program in basketball-crazed Philadelphia, and are the only program that plays in an NBA arena for a number of games every season.

The Big East is going through a transitional period with the 2013 additions of Memphis, Central Florida, Houston, SMU and Nova's Big Five rival Temple. But Villanova has always been a consistent winner and the Big East needs the Wildcats to be an anchor with Louisville, Connecticut, Marquette, Georgetown and St. John's. The name recognition is too special for it to be otherwise.

"We're concentrating on Villanova … and everything else will take care of itself," Wright said of the Big East's upheaval. "Since it's a funny time right now, it's very important for us to concentrate on Villanova basketball and try to be the best we can be and let everything else play out. We've got good young guys. I like the young guys we have. There are guys we can build with like when we got Randy Foye and Allan Ray."

If that's the case then the Wildcats will be back. But there needs to be patience. This will likely be another transition year, in large part because the Wildcats lost two players early to the NBA draft who were poorly advised. Ultimately, it is their loss as much it is Villanova's. The difference is that it will affect the Wildcats for one season, but may hurt Wayns and Cheek for much longer.

The Big East will send out its annual straw poll to its coaches to get their preseason predictions about the strength of the league's teams to help put together next season's conference schedule.

The league office said Syracuse's Jim Boeheim and Pitt's Jamie Dixon will be allowed to vote in the poll, even though the schools are leaving the conference for the ACC. They weren't invited to the conference meetings earlier this week in Florida.

The results of the poll will determine which teams face each other twice during the conference schedule. Having a tiered system based on those predictions has worked well for the Big East, rather than the predetermined rotations of which teams play each other twice used by the Big Ten, ACC and SEC.

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Big East Logo
Bill Streicher/Icon SMIBig East coaches are confident the formula the league uses to determine conference schedules ahead of each season has helped in getting more NCAA tournament bids.

The Big East had 11 teams in the NCAA tournament in 2011; it sent nine teams last season. Coaches firmly believe handling scheduling this way is the reason.

"We've been able to give the league the flexibility to balance the schedule," Cincinnati's Mick Cronin said after the Big East meetings wrapped up Tuesday morning in Ponte Vedra Beach. "The repeat opponents have been set up by the hierarchy of the league in the summer. Something has been done right. We've had 11 teams and then nine teams in the NCAA. The coaches were against 18 league games but then it has helped us get more teams in [the tournament]."

Notre Dame coach Mike Brey agreed that the formula has worked for the Big East.

"It has driven us to get more bids," said Brey, who added it was odd not to have Boeheim at the Big East meetings for the first time during Brey's tenure at Notre Dame. "We've got to stay with this formula. It's not too constrictive. We don't want a rotation. We've got to keep an open mind. Some of it is by design, some of it is by luck, but it has really worked. You can sit there as a coach and say, 'If you're in the top eight, you're in the tournament.'"

There were 13 men's basketball coaches in attendance at Monday's meeting. Four coaches stayed to meet with athletic directors Tuesday. UConn's Jim Calhoun and Louisville's Rick Pitino weren't in attendance and neither were coaches from incoming 2013 members Temple (Fran Dunphy), Memphis (Josh Pastner) and SMU (Larry Brown).

According to Brey, the 11 other coaches in attendance, outside of him and Cronin, were: Stan Heath (South Florida), Ed Cooley (Providence), Kevin Willard (Seton Hall), Steve Lavin (St. John's), Mike Rice (Rutgers), Jay Wright (Villanova), Buzz Williams (Marquette), John Thompson III (Georgetown), Oliver Purnell (DePaul) and 2013 new members Donnie Jones (Central Florida) and James Dickey (Houston).

Heath said that there was even discussion about possibly opening up to 20 games from 18 when the new teams come into the conference.

"We had some conversation, but nothing was shot down," Heath said.

Heath, Cronin and Brey all said there was a renewed sense of optimism in the room, especially with presentations from television executives from NBC and Fox. ESPN and CBS have the current Big East rights, but the league will enter a new negotiating period in the fall.

"There was excitement over the TV presentation possibilities," Cronin said. "The Big East can't negotiate now but there was interest in our product. You could see people spending valuable time on the presentations and they say we'll be even stronger with the media market changes in adding Dallas, Houston and Orlando, which only helps the big picture."

The coaches agreed that the conference tournament must include all members in 2013, regardless of that number.

Heath said he brought up to the coaches that former USF player Kentrell Gransberry never played at Madison Square Garden during his career at South Florida because all the teams weren't invited.

"It's meaningful to the players and the teams even if it's one game," Heath said. "It's a big part of being in the Big East."

The format for the 2013 Big East tournament is still being discussed. There are 15 teams in the league this season with West Virginia's departure. Connecticut is currently not eligible for the tournament since it is not allowed to play in the postseason because of an NCAA ban for poor academics.

The coaches said the plan would be a for 14-team tournament with two games on Tuesday (instead of the previous four) and the rest of the schedule going forward from Wednesday on during championship week with the remaining teams.

Brey said the number of games for an 18-team Big East is still an issue.

"Everybody wants to play everybody," Brey said. "We can't have no-plays. And we need all of the schools to come to New York. A lot of these schools do a lot of business around the Big East tournament. We've got to figure out a way to do this. We're going to figure this all out together."

Oregon State put the full-court press on Victor Robbins as soon as Jared Cunningham declared for the NBA draft by the NCAA's April 10 deadline.

The Beavers nabbed the 6-foot-6 forward from Compton, Calif., to give them a much-needed body up front who has length and athleticism.

"After Jared stayed in the draft, [Robbins] will fit in perfectly with us like the guys that we've been recruiting of late," coach Craig Robinson said. "For us to get Victor, the planets had to be aligned. We were aware of him, but not heavily recruiting him and hadn't any big plans to push unless Jared was gone for good."

Cunningham made up his mind before April 10, thus allowing the Beavers to get heavily involved in recruiting Robbins.

Robbins is Exhibit A for the coaches in the ACC who support the April 10 draft deadline. Those coaches initially pushed for the early-entry draft rule of May 8 and then again last year, when the legislation came through to set a unilateral NCAA deadline of April 10.

The NBA still respects only one deadline, which is its own on April 29. Baylor's Quincy Miller announced he was returning to Baylor by the April 10 deadline but then changed his mind before April 29 for the NBA. He couldn't go back to Baylor, but he was eligible for the NBA draft. Maryland's Terrell Stoglin, who was ultimately banned for a year by the Terps for a violation of team rules, didn't say anything by the April 10 deadline but declared by April 29.

The purpose of the April 10 deadline was to give college coaches more time to fill scholarships used by early entrants. But it is a selfish rule for the college coaches to not allow the underclassmen to test the draft process anymore. If they declare by April 29, they are no longer an amateur in the eyes of the NCAA.

"It's possible that we might not have gotten him if the deadline were April 29," Robinson said. "Knowing in the middle of April helps us just like knowing in March would help us. The earlier that we know the better it is."

Villanova coach Jay Wright also benefited from the early notification that two of his players, Maalik Wayns and Dominic Cheek, were declaring for the draft.

"It worked out exactly how the rule is planned to," Wright said. "Those two made decisions that allowed us to get involved with two transfers [who] we probably wouldn't have taken if we had those two back."

Villanova picked up Wake Forest's Tony Chennault and Rice's Dylan Ennis.

Connecticut was in a unique situation. The Huskies, who are banned from the 2013 postseason for poor APR scores, lost Alex Oriakhi to Missouri and saw two other big men -- Roscoe Smith and Michael Bradley -- transfer. In addition, they lost Jeremy Lamb and Andre Drummond to the draft.

Adding 6-10 Phillip Nolan in the spring was a result of all the available roster spots. UConn assistant coach Kevin Ollie said that the Huskies offered playing time, and Nolan jumped at the chance. But the early entries definitely did open up a void that the Huskies saw a need to fill.

Kentucky knew it was going to be replacing early entrants during the season. Picking up Nerlens Noel late to fill Anthony Davis' spot was planned. It wasn't a result of any early deadline or Davis' inability to test the draft process.

The same is true for Duke. The Blue Devils were recruiting 6-7 Amile Jefferson, even before Austin Rivers decided to leave early for the NBA draft. An early-entry deadline had no bearing on the Blue Devils' spring recruiting.

"It had nothing to do with the NBA draft," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said. "We wanted him on our roster no matter what. He's a great get and a perfect fit for Duke. He certainly solidifies our team and makes our team more athletic."

Krzyzewski added that Duke isn't in a position to suddenly add players late (although the Blue Devils were recruiting transfers like Oriakhi and Central Michigan's Trey Zeigler, who went to Pitt).

"It's pretty tough for us to do it here," Krzyzewski said of adding late signees who weren't recruited until April.

Robbins is a huge addition to Oregon State. But don't think Robinson is in favor of preventing underclassmen from working out for teams to see if they'll be drafted in the first or second round.

"I think we should do what's best for the student athletes," Robinson said. "If they can test the market to see where they stood, then they'd have a more realistic opinion of their talents, and we would have an easier job of keeping them in school."

Robinson said that he would favor a more flexible approach/rule from the NCAA.

"You should be able to come back to your school and finish your eligibility," said Robinson in regard to a player's poor draft status or being undrafted. The latter was once a rule but has since been removed by the NCAA (assuming the player doesn't sign with an agent). "I still think we're in the business of educating kids and getting them college degrees. We would wait to see where Jared got drafted. We would love to have him back. If he didn't [come back] we would have a list of guys to jump on. I think everyone should have a chance to come back one time as a student-athlete."

That was once the rule, as late as two seasons ago.

And like Robinson, Wright would like one date instead of two.

Of course, the early date means the coaches benefit and the players don't. But that's only if they can find a player who fits their program. If it's just a warm body to fill a spot, it won't matter much. If it's a player who will actually contribute and make a difference, it will be a success.

Don't expect the Oregon State and Villanova pickups to replace the pro-level talent that's gone. And ultimately that's the reality: Having a unilateral early-entry date may get the school a player to fill the spot, but he's not going to be a star who can replace the production that's left. If it was just about filling the roster and adding length, size or athleticism, it has the potential to be deemed a modest success once in a while for a few schools.

Here are some quick hitters during this crazy week in college sports …

• Villanova is trying to use its rising football program as a way to get in somewhere in the ACC or a Big 12/Big East hybrid. The school is hoping the Philadelphia market and the ability to get its football to FBS status (unlike, say, Georgetown) is attractive. And by the way, Nova is not pleased about the way Pitt helped block the Wildcats from being accepted into the Big East for football.

• If what's left of the Big East became a basketball-driven league, it would still be a very attractive conference. Imagine if the league were Villanova, St. John's, Georgetown, Marquette, DePaul, Seton Hall, Providence and possibly Notre Dame, then add Xavier, Butler, Saint Louis, Dayton, Creighton and maybe Saint Joseph's.

• The remaining non-FBS teams in the Big East have to commit to unity for a setup like this to work. The problem with this idea is that it still wouldn't command major media dollars. Non-football conferences don't make the major money. Check out my colleage Dana O'Neil's take on it here.

• The Big East is saying the right things by holding Pitt and Syracuse to the 27-month departure bylaw. But it's in the best interest of the remaining Big East schools to let the schools go so that they can figure out what the conference will look like in two or three years. Multiple lame-duck seasons serve no purpose.

• Pitt is having some selective memory these days about refusing to play Boston College after the Eagles broke off to the ACC eight years ago. The Big East office was not a fan of anyone playing the Eagles in anything and made that clear to Pittsburgh. The Panthers were supposed to play BC in the Jimmy V Classic but were replaced with Indiana.

• The Barclays Arena in Brooklyn will provide the New York City area with multiple opportunities to host conference tournaments. The ACC, Big East and A-10 should all have choices for tournaments in the coming years.

• Adding Missouri to the Southeastern Conference makes the most sense for what the league wants from a 14th member. The SEC wants the perception to be that it is adding a new market (St. Louis/Kansas City) and a school that has some respect academically. Texas A&M obviously delivers a major market (Houston) and respect. But there aren't really two other natural schools out there for the SEC to bump up to 16.

• Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott will have to do some serious convincing when he talks to his presidents -- especially the Bay Area ones -- about adding Oklahoma State and Texas Tech with Texas and Oklahoma. I would love to hear that conversation.

• I like that Mountain West commissioner Craig Thompson is being proactive, but the proposed MWC-Conference USA confederation to have a football championship that would decide a BCS bid is odd. Would it really produce an automatic qualifier to the BCS? Would there be some sort of basketball agreement?

• Texas would still rather stay in the Big 12 and have all of its program compete in the region. But it all depends on Oklahoma at this point.

• Can you imagine if the ACC added Notre Dame and Connecticut to get to 16? The Irish are always solid under Mike Brey and UConn is a three-time national champ. The top of the ACC would be scary good. But moving up from the bottom would be extremely difficult for some programs. The jobs at Wake Forest and Boston College would get even tougher.

• It really is amazing to think about how much super-conference talk is going on recently and yet Butler played in the last two national championship games and VCU was in the Final Four last season. March reminds us that there are hundreds of others schools competing in Division I and plenty of high-level players and coaches. It's not all about the big boys!

• The NCAA still hasn't decided on the fate of ousted Connecticut athletic director Jeff Hathaway. He's the men's basketball tourney committee chair yet is currently jobless. But a number of former committee members and current Big East officials want Hathaway to be on the committee for this final season as long as the NCAA can figure out a way around him not having a job. Hathaway would be able to focus solely on the task of running the committee, which meets again later in the fall.

• Michigan State coach Tom Izzo is as excited about this season as he has been in years. The Spartans are finally relatively healthy and it's clear some of the issues in the locker room are gone. Meanwhile, North Carolina coach Roy Williams, whose team will face off with Izzo in the Carrier Classic on Nov. 11, said he has been told the pickup games in Chapel Hill involving a number of locked-out NBA players have really helped his crew develop.

• UCLA's Class of 2012 commitments from the East and South, Kyle Anderson (New Jersey) and Jordan Adams (Georgia), continue to show the Bruins are a national program. Every former UCLA coach has consistently said the Bruins can't simply recruit California. UCLA has to be a national player to be a national contender. The recruiting by the Bruins and rival Arizona -- the top two teams in the latest ESPN rankings -- is a credit to Ben Howland and Sean Miller, who cut their teeth recruiting in the cut-throat East Coast. But it also shows that the down cycle of the Pac-12 elite was merely a blip on the radar.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Quick hitters after talking to several coaches here at the AAU nationals:

• The U.S. World University Games team -- led by Purdue coach Matt Painter (U.S. team head coach) along with Butler coach Brad Stevens and Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin (U.S. assistants) -- continues to lose key players. Xavier's Tu Holloway turned down the invite to stay and play with his XU teammates. Wisconsin's Jordan Taylor is having minor ankle surgery. And now Painter said that UConn forward Alex Oriakhi is also out in order to rest an injury. Stevens said losing Oriakhi will be a big blow since the team that heads to China next month for the competition needs a rebounder like him in the tournament. Painter said Detroit's Ray McCallum Jr. and UConn's Shabazz Napier were added to the tryout list. Pitt's Ashton Gibbs and Syracuse's Scoop Jardine are still on the roster and are certainly favored to make the squad.

• There are still 22 players trying to make the U.S. squad and they'll compete and train in Colorado Springs from Aug. 4-7. The event runs Aug. 13-22 in Shenzhen, China. A number of players could use this international stage as a springboard for their college seasons; these players include Alabama's JaMychal Green, Texas A&M's Khris Middleton, Kentucky's Darius Miller, Northwestern's John Shurna, Minnesota's Trevor Mbakwe, Vanderbilt's John Jenkins, Michigan State's Draymond Green, Missouri's Kim English and Marcus Denmon and Notre Dame's Tim Abromaitis.

But perhaps more than any other player, Cincinnati's Yancy Gates needs to make this team and show he can be a force in order for the Bearcats to continue their rise in the Big East. Last season, he was suspended for a game due to team-related issues. Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said Gates can come out of this looking like a team player and a stronger player who can change his image with a positive performance in China.

• Painter said fifth-year senior Robbie Hummel is tired of answering questions about his right knee (ACL surgery). And so are the Boilermakers. He said Hummel should be good to go once the season starts. Meanwhile, the Boilermakers are troubled by the foot surgery for John Hart that will keep him out for an extended period. Hart has had trouble with his right foot for quite some time.

• Villanova coach Jay Wright said JayVaughn Pinkston has been cleared by the school to play for the Wildcats this season. Pinkston was not allowed to play last season due to an assault charge. He was expected to have a major impact on last season's team prior to the incident. The Wildcats are prepping for a trip to Amsterdam, where they will play a few national teams. Wright said the Wildcats will be much different than any squad he's coached in recent years, with the team centered more around big men rather than being guard-oriented.

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Michigan's John Beilein
Kevin C. Cox/Getty ImagesJohn Beilein is looking forward to the two new guards he'll have on campus this season.

• Michigan coach John Beilein said the addition of freshmen guards Trey Burke and Carlton Brundidge should allow Stu Douglass to return to his natural off-guard position. Losing Darius Morris to the NBA draft was a huge blow to the Wolverines, but Tim Hardaway Jr. showed with the U-19 team in Latvia that he can create quite well with the ball in his hands. If the freshmen can be facilitators and Douglass can play off them, the Wolverines may not take a step back. Michigan is in the Maui Invitational in a loaded field, has to travel to upstart Virginia in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, and gets a sleeper Big 12 team at home in Iowa State. The Wolverines are likely going to add a nonconference game at Arkansas that will take place during the Big Ten season.

• While on a recruiting trip in February, North Carolina coach Roy Williams took a side trip to an aircraft carrier in San Diego to see what it would be like in advance of the Carrier Classic on Nov. 11 against Michigan State. The USS Carl Vinson will be the host of the game, but it wasn't the ship that Williams toured. Williams wanted to see how this would work with a game on top of the ship deck. He couldn't get over the narrow passageways through the ship and wondered how his taller players would maneuver through the ship to get to the deck. Well, apparently there will be a lift that will help that occur so that shouldn't be a problem.

• Williams isn't ruling out Leslie McDonald coming back this season from an ACL injury. Williams said McDonald will have surgery on Aug. 3 and made it clear there's no reason to make any declarative statements at this juncture about a return.

• There was no consensus among the coaches in Orlando about whether to add a stipend, how it would be handled and how it could be divided up for all student-athletes. UConn's Jim Calhoun and Louisville's Rick Pitino said they would like to see $75 to $100 a week for the athletes -- roughly $400 a month.

• Not one coach endorsed the NCAA's new draft early-entry withdrawal date of April 10, 2012, after which no player will be allowed to enter the NBA draft. Makes you wonder why this was passed. Every coach who discussed it said it would lead to more poor decisions of players leaving early.

• Ole Miss coach Andy Kennedy tossed out this prediction about Vanderbilt: The Commodores are a Final Four contender.

• Old Dominion coach Blaine Taylor has gone to the Fred Hill makeover school. Hill, the former Rutgers head coach and current Northwestern assistant, was bald when he was head coach of the Scarlet Knights. Now he's gone with long hair in the back and new glasses. As for Taylor, he got rid of his famed mustache and dark hair. He's gone with something of an auburn or almost light red look. He was standing to the side of our TV set, and I wasn't the only one who had no idea who he was until you could read ODU on his golf shirt.

• Stanford is prepping for a trip to Spain in early September. The Cardinal and coach Johnny Dawkins need to get away to figure out who will stand out for them now that Jeremy Green is gone.

• New Fairfield coach Sydney Johnson squeezed in a team trip to Italy next month, which will be critical for him to get to know his players more and see how Boston College transfer Rakim Sanders meshes with a team that won the MAAC regular-season title last season and is back almost in full.

• The travel some of these coaches put on themselves is a bit ridiculous. Dawkins was in Orlando on Monday, then took off for Phoenix and then Los Angeles before he headed back to Orlando by Thursday. Temple coach Fran Dunphy was in Orlando on Monday and was off to Phoenix before a return to Orlando by the end of the week.

• New Maryland coach Mark Turgeon said he has reviewed his team enough to know that scoring up front will be a challenge. He said he'll likely go with four guards on the court on a consistent basis.

• Northwestern's Bill Carmody clearly wanted to be noticed in showing his school spirit. He had a rather loud pair of purple sweat pants that I'm not sure you could or would want to buy at the campus bookstore. Michigan State's Tom Izzo went with Spartan green, which Carmody pointed out, but the green was certainly more muted than the purple.

To put it simply, Maryland is one of the best jobs in the country.

The Terrapins can boast fertile recruiting territory in the Beltway and surrounding areas. Maryland fans are as loyal and passionate as any in college basketball. The facilities are top-notch.

Yes, North Carolina and Duke are the perennial favorites in the ACC, but there's no shame in being the third-best job in the conference behind those two. That just means it's among the top 10 or 15 in the country. So why wouldn't top-tier coaches run to College Park if athletic director Kevin Anderson calls to find a replacement for Gary Williams, who abruptly resigned Thursday?

Well, after discussing the topic with a number of sources that have direct knowledge on the subject as it relates to these coaches, there are reasons that make moving to Maryland difficult.

Some of the key points that have come up:

• How many coaches leave an elite job to go to another elite job when things are going well?
• How many coaches in their late 40s or early 50s want to rebuild again if they don't have to?
• How many coaches want to go to a team next season that will likely miss the postseason when they have an NCAA tourney team on their own campus?
• How many want to re-invent themselves in a new community and go through the rigors of establishing new contacts?
• How many are willing to go laterally financially if they're already making millions in their current job?

A while back, moving to Maryland from a school like Pittsburgh (see Jamie Dixon) would've been a no-brainer. But now schools like Pitt have emerged as national players, which makes a decision to leave a good situation a tough one to digest.

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Kevin Anderson
AP Photo/Rob CarrKevin Anderson has already hired a football coach during his short tenure as Maryland's AD. Now he has the monumental task of replacing Gary Williams.

The big-to-big moves of note recently were easy to explain. Roy Williams went from Kansas to North Carolina. That's two of the top five jobs in the country and Williams is a UNC alumnus. Bill Self left Illinois to replace Williams at Kansas, and that one made sense too.

Herb Sendek going from NC State to Arizona State was a geographic move and one in which he simply didn't feel appreciated enough at his old school.

Ben Howland left Pittsburgh for UCLA. Pitt was a new player in the Big East at the time. UCLA is, well, UCLA and Howland is from Santa Barbara. No need for an explanation.

Frank Haith going from Miami to Missouri was an obvious move. Missouri is a much better job. Mike Anderson going from Missouri to Arkansas was an easy choice since he had once coached at Arkansas.

But not every situation provides an obvious answer.

Let's look at the candidates Maryland will likely pursue based on a number of sources. It may not be limited to this list, but these guys will likely be among the first to get a call, if they haven't already:

Mike Brey, Notre Dame: This one seems obvious. Brey, 52, is from Maryland. He has a beach home in Delaware. He coached at Delaware. He played at George Washington. But he also hasn't lived in the area for more than two decades. Yes, Brey had a senior-laden team last season, including Big East player of the year Ben Hansbrough. But the Fighting Irish will be better than the Terrapins next season and Brey feels like he has created his own program in South Bend. He doesn't necessarily have the energy to re-start his career. He loves coaching the Irish and doesn't need a new challenge. If he were in his 40s, he might reconsider. But if he were asked now if he wants to stay at Notre Dame or coach at Maryland, his answer would likely be to stick with the Irish.

Jamie Dixon, Pitt: Dixon and Anderson have a special relationship. Anderson was the athletic director who hired Dixon's late sister Maggie at Army. They have shared a closeness since her death. So Dixon will likely be asked by his friend for advice, but it's not likely he will take the Maryland job if asked unless something were to change. Pitt is a Big East power now and has been within a layup of the Final Four. Dixon is entrenched in the Pittsburgh community. There is no reason for him to leave.

Jay Wright, Villanova: Wright has built Nova into a Big East perennial power. He has recruiting locked up in the corridor. He has coached the Wildcats to the Final Four. And he is extremely comfortable in Philadelphia. If there is a next move for Wright, it's likely to the NBA. Wright doesn't need to jump to a basketball-football school. According to sources, Wright wouldn't leave Villanova for Maryland.

Tubby Smith, Minnesota: Smith was reportedly high on the lists at Georgia Tech and NC State but claimed all along he had no plans of leaving Minneapolis. Georgia Tech couldn't have paid him what he could command anyway. Smith is from Maryland, so it would make sense for him to go home. But is that what Anderson wants? Smith is in his 60s and Williams just retired at 66. Smith is in the same coaching era as Williams, Mike Krzyzewski, Jim Boeheim, Jim Calhoun and Roy Williams. He has coaching left in him, but Maryland is in a rebuilding situation. Yes, Jim Larranaga at age 61 just went to Miami, but the Hurricanes have players and can win next season. Smith is an intriguing name with a national title to his credit, but would he be a long-term solution?

Mark Few, Gonzaga: Few has flirted with plenty of jobs in the past, notably Indiana. But he's never bitten. He loves his life in Spokane and with the Zags. He has built a national name at Gonzaga and the Zags recruit at a high level now. He makes over $1 million and is firmly entrenched in the Northwest. He would listen, according to sources, but would he really be willing to go from Spokane to College Park? Does Anderson want to pluck someone who doesn't have any ties to the area, as good a name as he is nationally?

Brad Stevens, Butler: Stevens should only leave Butler for a top 10-15 national job after coaching the Bulldogs to consecutive national title games. This is one of those jobs he would have to listen to if called. But Stevens has never worked outside Indiana. Is this the right fit for him? Anderson would hit a home run with this hire. Stevens has become one of the most well-respected coaches in the business in such a short time, drawing immense praise from none other than Krzyzewski the past two seasons. But would Stevens leave the two-time defending national runner-up? Tough call. If Stevens is going to move, he'll likely stay in the Midwest at an elite job in the Big Ten.

Mark Turgeon, Texas A&M: Turgeon played at Kansas. He fully understands what it's like to be at a basketball-crazed school. He coached at one in Wichita State. He would enjoy being at a basketball-first school like Maryland. He has done a wonderful job keeping the Aggies relevant in the Big 12 and A&M will again be in the mix in the conference title race next season. But would Turgeon be the choice for Anderson? That's still an unknown. As one source said, Turgeon may not be the news conference name that Tubby Smith would be on day one, but two years into his tenure at Maryland they would know they had an elite coach and a winner.

Sean Miller, Arizona: This is by far the most intriguing name. If this were a year ago, Miller would have probably run to Maryland. His first year at Arizona wasn't easy after taking over for two interim coaches who succeeded Hall of Famer Lute Olson. But Miller then coached the Wildcats to the Pac-10 title and a trip to the Elite Eight. He has an elite recruiting class coming to Tucson. This is a great time to be in the Pac-12 at a school like Arizona because it is winnable with so many programs in flux. Unlike Dixon, Wright, Brey, Few or even Stevens, Miller isn't entrenched in his community or the school. He went from Xavier to Tucson just two years ago. He is an East Coast coach, he played at Pitt and coached in the ACC at NC State. So he would be a great fit at Maryland, but is he willing to move after bringing back some of the glory to Zona? Is he willing to start over again and rebuild? Does he have the energy for that type of move again? This might be the most agonizing call.

Shaka Smart, VCU: Obviously Smart's name wouldn't have been on this list a year ago. But that was before he coached the Rams to an improbable Final Four run. He committed to VCU by staying put this offseason and the school upped his salary quite a bit. But he would almost certainly jump at an offer from Maryland. The question: Is this too big a leap for Maryland to make?

Johnny Dawkins, Stanford: Dawkins is from Maryland. He is an all-time great Duke player. He is trying to establish himself at Stanford, but it doesn't appear he's done enough to warrant interest from the Terps. But he does have a name that would resonate locally and in the ACC.

There likely will be others, possibly some names from the NBA. But any list that Anderson checks off should at least begin with the aforementioned coaches. Maryland shouldn't aim for anything less.

Big East off to a fast start

November, 29, 2010
11/29/10
3:17
PM ET

The Big East was supposed to take a back seat to the Big Ten in the conference rankings.

So far no other conference is close to the Big East -- at least in winning early season tournaments.

The Big East has won six traditional tournaments (those with at least semifinals and finals played on a neutral court):

Pitt beat Texas to win the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic in New York.
Georgetown beat NC State to win the Charleston Classic.
Connecticut beat Kentucky to win the Maui Invitational.
Syracuse beat Georgia Tech to win the Legends Classic in Atlantic City.
Notre Dame beat Wisconsin to win the Old Spice Classic in Orlando.
St. John's beat Arizona State to win the Great Alaska Shootout.
West Virginia lost to Minnesota in the final of the Puerto Rico Tip-Off.
Villanova lost in the final to Tennessee in the NIT Season Tip-Off.

On the flip side, DePaul had an 0-3 showing in the 76 Classic in Anaheim and Seton Hall won only one game in the Paradise Jam in St. Thomas. Marquette failed to reach the title game at the CBE Classic in Kansas City, losing in the semifinals to No. 1 Duke.

But those last three are hardly blemishes for the league. The six wins and the two title losses speak much louder to its overall strength.

[+] Enlarge
Mike Brey
Cliff Welch/Icon SMINotre Dame coach Mike Brey is pleased with his team's 7-0 start, which includes a win at the Old Spice Classic.

"Every year the media wants to come up with another best league, some other conference," said Pitt coach Jamie Dixon. "Yet, we've done this year after year. We're easy to dismiss. But then we'll beat each other up in January and February and our RPI won't be as high so we won't get as many higher seeds."

The wins by Pitt, Georgetown, Syracuse and St. John's, based on the overall fields in each tournament, shouldn't have been a shock.

More surprising was Notre Dame winning in Orlando and certainly Connecticut's run in Maui.

The Irish were picked seventh in the Big East by the coaches in the preseason; UConn was picked 10th.

Notre Dame had to knock off a possible SEC darling in Georgia (playing without a healthy Trey Thompkins at the start of the event), then an offensively challenged Cal before disposing of the always pesky Wisconsin. UConn, though, had the more formidable task of beating Missouri Valley favorite Wichita State, then Big Ten favorite Michigan State and the uber-talented Kentucky.

"We're going to get eight bids [to the NCAA tournament] again," said Notre Dame coach Mike Brey. "That's what it looks like based on these early returns."

Connecticut has a national player of the year candidate in Kemba Walker. The Huskies also have some time to avoid a hangover from their Maui win with a soft five-game schedule (save a game against a surging Harvard, which just beat Colorado) prior to their Big East opener at Pitt on Dec. 27. The Huskies' next major nonconference games aren't until January (at Texas on Jan. 8 and home against Tennessee on Jan. 22).

Meanwhile, Notre Dame's week includes a matchup with Valley upstart Indiana State on Tuesday before going to Kentucky on Dec. 8 and then hosting Gonzaga on Dec. 11.

"It's a Big East week," Brey said. "That's why we set it up. There's nothing like having this experience."

Brey said the experience of having Tim Abromaitis, Ben Hansbrough, Tyrone Nash, Carleton Scott and even Purdue transfer Scott Martin play three games in four days in Orlando paid off. Brey also got much-needed scoring out of freshman guard Eric Atkins in Orlando, who scored 12 points in the title win over Wisconsin on Sunday night.

"We need Atkins and Martin to emerge for us to be really good," Brey said. "Ultimately, those two guys played well and found a rhythm. I really love this team. I've got a good vibe about them now. I'm so impressed with their focus and concentration. They all chased a common goal."

And that was to win a tournament championship. Ultimately by doing that, just like Georgetown, UConn, Pitt, Syracuse and St. John's did, the Irish proved that the Big East will have the depth to be an even tougher conference with enough good teams to possibly land 50 percent of its membership in the NCAAs in March.

If the Big East is serious about adding TCU as part of its effort to get to 10 teams in football, then it can expect its basketball league to bloat to at least 17 members, according to multiple sources.

According to a Mountain West official, league bylaws demand that a member play in all the major sports, meaning that TCU couldn't ship its football program to an automatic-qualifying BCS conference like the Big East and still keep its men's and women's basketball programs in the MWC.

According to a source, there has been preliminary discussions with the WAC to take TCU in everything but football, much like the WAC was willing to do with BYU. TCU is looking at options if it can't or doesn't want to go all sports in the Big East.

A Sun Belt official said Wednesday that there had been no contact about housing TCU's other sports outside of football. From a purely hoops standpoint, it wouldn't be great news for the Horned Frogs to go down a level in basketball to a one-bid conference, putting its basketball program on equal footing with nearby North Texas.

The Big East hasn't had official discussions with its membership yet about the format of a 17-team or 18-team basketball league, but there have been some internal discussions within the league office, according to sources.

The easy thing for the Big East to do is add TCU to give it a nationally recognized football program and then hope that current member Villanova bumps its football program up from FCS to FBS so that basketball doesn't have to be disrupted. Adding schools like Army or Navy for football-only would work since those schools put their other sports in the Patriot League. Temple might also work since football plays in the MAC, while all the others compete in the Atlantic 10.

Adding TCU and a candidate like Central Florida would move the basketball league to 18 teams, unless the Knights wanted to downgrade their men's and women's basketball programs at a time when they've poured millions into a new basketball facility. Like the Mountain West, Conference USA has a bylaw stating that no member can play sports in another conference. So in that scenario, UCF's other teams might compete in a league like the Sun Belt or Atlantic Sun or Big South.

As for the Big East, the league office is looking at the possibility of what a 17-team basketball league would look like in two years, assuming any invitation extended to TCU would be accepted.

The Big East has an 18-game regular-season schedule that calls for three repeat games under television contracts with ESPN and CBS through 2012-13. The contract is based on a 16-team membership. CBS and ESPN each get a choice of one of those repeat games. If the league were to go to 17 members, the 18-game schedule would remain the same (although the invitations could be put off for two seasons since a team like TCU couldn't join for 2011-12 anyway because of the late notice).

According to a source, in a 17-team league, each program would play every other team (16 games) and then play two repeat games (instead of three). That means a lower-level repeat game for a favorite like Pittsburgh would go away. CBS and ESPN requested Pitt and Villanova play twice and each received a game. The Big East then kept the rivalry of Pitt-West Virginia for another repeat game. Pitt's third repeat game is against South Florida. Under a 17-team, 18-game schedule, this game would go away.

If the Big East had to add two more all-sport members to get to 18, then it gets more complicated in basketball. The league would likely want to keep every team playing each other once for 17 games. That would leave only one repeat game, likely the rivalry game. If that occurs, the Big East would likely have to restructure its television contract with CBS and ESPN since both networks wouldn't get a chance to televise the same matchups during a season.

The Big East tournament would become another matter. According to a source, the conference couldn't add another day in Madison Square Garden to begin the tournament on Monday of championship week. The current tournament format begins on Tuesday. If the membership was determined to include every Big East team, then they would have to consider playing on a campus site for the first round, which would be challenging because a number of schools don't own the buildings (Seton Hall, Providence, etc.) and would have a hard time getting set dates.

The other option is to go back to inviting only 12 teams to New York, which may not be a popular topic among a number of schools, according to a source.

The league office expects a decision on membership within the academic year, but Villanova may have the first move since the Wildcats' decision to upgrade their football program would dictate whether the Big East needs to grab one or two more football members to get to 10.

According to a source, the Big East membership hasn't discussed a split of the football/basketball schools into two conferences. Of course, there are a number of issues with that split -- ownership of the conference funds, who owns the name of the league and a contract with MSG -- that would need to be worked out before anything of that magnitude could occur.

Editor's Note: Andy Katz's revised top 25 was published on Friday with Purdue at No. 2. With Saturday's news of Robbie Hummel's devastating retorn ACL, Katz has issued an updated version:

1. Duke: No reason to move the Blue Devils. Kyle Singler and Nolan Smith had tremendous summers working out with the USA Basketball select team. The buzz around newcomer Kyrie Irving is just as high. The karma is all good in Durham with Mike Krzyzewski winning a gold medal at the FIBA World Championship in Turkey and the Blue Devils getting a commitment from one of the best players in the 2011 class in Austin Rivers.

2. Michigan State: The Spartans did dump Chris Allen, an indication that the differences between Allen and Tom Izzo were too wide to overcome. But Izzo is feeling quite good about the continued recovery of Kalin Lucas from an Achilles injury. Lucas will be treated carefully in practice over the next month as the Spartans see how much he can push himself. But Izzo is confident Delvon Roe is as healthy as he's been at MSU and fully expects Durrell Summers to be a star and Draymond Green to be a vocal leader.

3. Pittsburgh: The Panthers don't have the star power of the aforementioned top three. But this Panthers team is like an old-school Big East team that has experienced players who have been together and found roles. The summer trip to Ireland provided more positive bonding time for Jamie Dixon's crew as it takes on the role of Big East favorite. There were no flaws this summer, making it more palatable to move the Panthers up a few spots.

4. Kansas State: The Wildcats continue to have a positive vibe from their near brush with a Final Four berth. Kansas State returns Jacob Pullen and an expectation that returnees like Curtis Kelly and Jamar Samuels will continue to blossom. Clearly the rest of the Big 12 believes in the Wildcats, as well, since they were picked to win the league for the first time.

5. Ohio State: The Buckeyes have one of the top freshmen in the country in big man Jared Sullinger. Sure, they lost Evan Turner, but the rest of the wings return and the buzz on the Buckeyes remains that this team was more than Turner a year ago. If players like William Buford, David Lighty and Jon Diebler can handle the responsibility, the Bucks should be a national contender.

6. Kansas: Moving the Jayhawks up to No. 7 is clearly predicated on Josh Selby being eligible for the majority of the season. KU is waiting for Selby to get his academic clearance from the Eligibility Center. He can practice while this is pending, but Kansas needs him out on the court during the real stuff. There is still plenty of talent in Lawrence -- led by Marcus Morris, who coach Bill Self is convinced will be a star -- but Selby is the key for the Jayhawks to be top-10 good.

7. Villanova: The Wildcats didn't rely on Scottie Reynolds in his last few games as much and they survived. Reynolds' eligibility expired and Corey Fisher is the next one to pick up the mantel. Jay Wright had another solid offseason, coaching the USA Basketball select team. There is an expectation now that Wright's teams won't dip. Like Pitt, Villanova is considered a regular near the top of the league on a yearly basis.

8. Gonzaga: The Zags had quite a summer with Elias Harris, Kelly Olynyk and Robert Sacre all playing for their respective national teams. Gonzaga put together arguably the toughest nonconference schedule in the country, too. If Demetri Goodson and Steven Gray can elevate their game as lead guards after the departure of Matt Bouldin, the Zags will be deserving of a top-10 ranking.

9. Florida: The Gators return all five starters from last season's No. 10 seed in the NCAA tournament. But the addition of Patric Young is surely going to bolster this squad. Young won gold for the USA junior national team this summer and proved to be an invaluable member of that squad. His tenacity, hustle plays and overall team focus means he could be a difference-maker for Florida this season.

10. Syracuse: The Orange move up six spots from the May poll in large part because coach Jim Boeheim is almost never wrong about evaluating and projecting his team's talent. Most of the time he hits on the major contributors and Boeheim said Kris Joseph is ready to be a star. He also expects big man Fab Melo to have a monster season, notably on the defensive end where he can block shots and grab rebounds. While it's hard to see yet where and how much C.J. Fair and Dion Waiters will play, they have already impressed, meaning the freshman class will make this team even deeper.

11. Kentucky: If Enes Kanter's eligibility was a certainty, the Wildcats would move up into the top 10. His amateurism eligibility decision is still to be determined. But what can be stated is Kentucky showed on a trip to Canada that the returning players are up for the challenge of a new role. Darius Miller and DeAndre Liggins should flourish as John Calipari plays more of his dribble-drive-motion offense. Newcomers like point guard Brandon Knight, Doron Lamb, Terrence Jones and Stacey Poole are all ready to make major contributions.

12. Missouri: The Tigers move up a notch, even without newcomer Tony Mitchell, whose eligibility is in question and in a best-case scenario wouldn't be available until the Big 12 schedule starts. But Mike Anderson can't play the role of being underappreciated anymore. Missouri returns Kim English, a healthy Justin Safford, Marcus Denmon and adds a recruiting class that needs to get more love. Anderson is pushing the significance of point guard Phil Pressey and power forward Ricardo Ratliffe. If both are as impactful as projected, Mizzou may be a league title contender.

13. Illinois: My colleague Doug Gottlieb tabbed the Illini to win the Big Ten. I'm not going that far with Purdue, Michigan State and Ohio State to contend with. But Illinois has no excuse if this is not an NCAA season at the very least. Bruce Weber can't say enough about how much incoming freshman Jereme Richmond will mean to this team. Add him to an already talented roster that includes Mike Davis, Mike Tisdale, D.J. Richardson and returning lead guard Demetri McCamey and the Illini have their best chance since 2005 to challenge for a conference title.

14. North Carolina: Losing the Wear twins and senior Will Graves, the team's top 3-point threat, meant the Tar Heels had to drop a few slots. The talent is in place up front with the return of John Henson and Tyler Zeller and the addition of the top freshman in the country in Harrison Barnes. But the guard play is still a work in progress and an unknown with erratic Larry Drew II and the still-inexperienced Dexter Strickland and Leslie McDonald being joined by newcomers Reggie Bullock and Kendall Marshall.

15. Memphis: The Tigers did get Will Barton eligible after there were questions earlier in the summer once he missed the team's trip to the Bahamas. But all is good now. The Tigers certainly have the talent to be projected higher, but remember they didn't make the NCAAs last season and are leaning heavily on newcomers like Barton, Joe Jackson and Tarik Black. If the Tigers are to be worthy of the top 10, then returnees like Wesley Witherspoon and Will Coleman will have to continue their improvement.

16. Baylor: This is by far the biggest drop in my poll from May to October. The Bears were probably too high in that original poll. Losing Ekpe Udoh and Tweety Carter was significant and maybe I was putting too much emphasis on newcomer Perry Jones. But the reason for this drop is LaceDarius Dunn. He is currently suspended from game competition, but was just reinstated to the team to practice and attend class after allegations that he broke his girlfriend's jaw. But the uncertainty of Dunn's availability casts major doubt on whether the Bears can be a serious contender in the Big 12.

17. Washington: Like Jay Wright, there was positive karma with Lorenzo Romar sharing the coaching duties in Las Vegas for the USA Basketball select team. And the guard play is extremely solid with the return of Isaiah Thomas, Venoy Overton and Abdul Gaddy, wings Justin Holiday and newcomers led by Terrence Ross. Losing Quincy Pondexter shouldn't be underplayed, though. We'll know early enough about the Huskies when they go to the Maui Invitational with a possible semifinal matchup against Kentucky.

18. Butler: Shelvin Mack had a sensational summer and the buzz continues to build that he's one of the top guards in the country. Mack played on the USA select team and the more confident he becomes, the better chance Butler has of being back in the mix for a deep March run again. Sure, losing Gordon Hayward early to the NBA is hard to take for this group, but if Ronald Nored is healthy enough to be as much of a scorer as he was a defender and Matt Howard adds even more productivity and stays out of foul trouble, the Bulldogs won't disappoint.

19. Georgetown: The Hoyas return one of the best backcourts in the Big East with Austin Freeman, Chris Wright and Jason Clark. If Julian Vaughn, Hollis Thompson and newcomers Nate Lubick and Moses Abraham can help offset the loss of Greg Monroe, Georgetown will be in the chase in the Big East. The Hoyas put themselves in position early with another tough slate of nonconference games (going to Old Dominion, Temple and Memphis, to Kansas City to play Missouri, and adding a home game against always-tough Utah State) to gauge where this team will be in January.

20. Tennessee: I probably had the Vols slightly too high in May and the NCAA investigation swirling around the program doesn't help, let alone the self-imposed sanctions against the entire coaching staff that have left a cloud over the season. It shouldn't affect the on-court performance of the players, but it will certainly be a distraction for the coaches as they have to deal with questions throughout the fall. Tennessee still has one of the top newcomers in guard Tobias Harris, and if Scotty Hopson can make shots in bunches, the Vols should still finish in the top three in the loaded SEC East.

21. San Diego State: The Aztecs have quietly gone through the summer with their roster intact, led by one of the more underrated forwards in the country in Kawhi Leonard. Malcolm Thomas is another stud for coach Steve Fisher. If the point guard situation gets settled, the Aztecs should be a top-25 squad. San Diego State challenged itself with five straight games away from home to open the season, including going to Gonzaga before heading off to three games in Oxford, Ohio, as part of the CBE Classic. If the Aztecs survive that stretch, they'll be in a solid position to enter the MWC season as the favorite, fending off BYU, New Mexico and UNLV.

22. Minnesota: The Gophers got two players back that would have certainly helped in March. Lead guard Al Nolen, who became academically ineligible in February last season, is good to go, as is forward Trevor Mbakwe, who sat out last season pending an assault case. Mbakwe is back in the good graces at the school, which stood by him during the case. The Gophers went to Canada in August and returned an even more determined lot. Don't sleep on this squad, especially in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off Classic. Nolen, Mbakwe, Devoe Joseph, Blake Hoffarber, Ralph Sampson III and Rodney Williams are all capable of leading the Gophers to a tournament win and into the top 25.

23. Purdue: On Friday, I ranked Purdue No. 2 and wrote that "the Boilermakers haven't had a single hiccup during the offseason." Less than 24 hours later, Robbie Hummel retore his right ACL during the team's first full practice. The loss can't be overstated. The Boilers still have a pair of All-Big Ten players in JaJuan Johnson and E'Twaun Moore and are still very much an NCAA tournament team, but it's hard to foresee this being a Final Four contender without Hummel.

24. Temple: The Owls got pushed down a peg by my newfound belief in Minnesota. Temple is still my pick to win the A-10 with the return of Lavoy Allen and guard Juan Fernandez. The Owls once again have a monster schedule that should tell us plenty by January, with an opener against Seton Hall, quality games in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando, playing Maryland in D.C., hosting Georgetown and going to Villanova. The Owls go to Duke, too, but that's not until late February. Oh, and of course, this team has one of the top coaches in the game in Fran Dunphy.

25. Georgia: I was bullish on the Bulldogs in May and I haven't dropped off in October with the return of Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie, two of the top talents in the SEC. Georgia also adds Tennessee State transfer Gerald Robinson, who should open up some scoring on the perimeter. UGA will certainly be pushed in an SEC East that could produce up to five NCAA tourney teams, but the Bulldogs have some summer buzz and momentum heading into that Old Spice Classic tournament in Orlando, especially with an opener against Notre Dame.

Who got pushed out of the poll?
Virginia Tech: The Hokies were No. 22 in my May poll, but they lost one of their key rotation players in J.T. Thompson to a knee injury. Of course, the return of Malcolm Delaney means they will be in the hunt for a top-two finish in the ACC and an NCAA berth. But the Hokies weren't an NCAA team last season and losing a key player pushed them down a few spots for now.

A dozen more to watch (in alphabetical order): BYU, Florida State, New Mexico, Texas, UNLV, Utah State, Vanderbilt, Virginia Tech, West Virginia, Wichita State, Wisconsin, Xavier