Chat with Fran Fraschilla
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla will drop by to take your questions on the start of the college basketball season!
Fran spent 23 years on the sidelines as a college basketball coach before joining ESPN as an broadcast analyst. He guided both Manhattan (1993, 1995) and St. John's (1998) to the NCAA Tournament in his nine seasons as a Division I head coach, leaving New Mexico following the end of the 2001-02 season.
Send your questions now and join Fran Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
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Buzzmaster (3:00 PM)
We're getting Fran right now!
Fran Fraschilla (3:03 PM)
My slowest 7 months of the year finally is over. I'll be in front of the TV for 6 hours tonight. Thanks to my wife. I took a lot of garbage out this summer. Let's fire those questions at me, because I'm ready to go.
Fran how good do you think syracuse can be this year?
Fran Fraschilla (3:05 PM)
Not discounting the loss to LeMoyne, I think they have a chance to finish in the top 5 in the Big East. A lot will depend on point guard play. Scoop Jardine and Brandon Triche have big shoes to fill with Jonny Flynn leaving. I've always been a big Wesley Johnson fan, but hope he's not getting too much hype. Andy Rautins may be the most underrated player in the Big East. Somehow, I feel Coach B will have this team at its best come January and February.
Wisconsin has performed well the past decade with gritty play and superior coaching. Seeing as how the conference is so tough this year, how do you see them performing? I know Bo Ryan is a great coach, but is he a miracle worker?
Fran Fraschilla (3:08 PM)
It's been a great run so far in the Bo Ryan era and it's by no means over. This, however, will be a tricky season because of the loss of Landry and Krabbenhoft. As you know, the Big Ten may rival the Big 12 as the nation's deepest conference this year, so it's not a fun time for the Badgers to be rebuilding. When all is said and done, I think they'll compete for an NCAA bid, but if I had to say right now, I think NIT is realistic. They could use another big year from steady Trevon Hughes. It's time for John Leuer to play like an all-conference performer.
Dan (Austin, TX)
Will the Big Ten win the Big Ten-ACC Challenge?
Fran Fraschilla (3:10 PM)
I've got a sneaky good game - FSU-OSU. The FSU front line which is NBA caliber in Alabi and Singleton and I love incoming freshman Michael Snaer. The Buckeyes might have the nation's most versatile player in Evan Turner and David Lighty returns from an injury a year ago. Remember, the Bucks were 7-0 before he went down. This is a perfect year for the Big Ten to finally win the Challenge, but there are some sneaky good teams in the ACC this year, like Maryland, Boston College and an improved Georgia Tech team. I still have my money on the ACC.
Pat (Villanova )
Fran, looking at Villanova's youth, could we still be a top contender to make the final four?
Fran Fraschilla (3:12 PM)
Every expert is thinking that way, but for me, coach Wright's young big guys will have to make an immediate contribution. The youngster with the most promise is Mouph Yarou, former Wildcat great Eddie Pinkney is very high on him because of his size, agility and great hands. The backcourt is obviously rock solid and Scottie Reynolds will go down as one of 'Nova's all-time greats. I will catch them early versus George Mason in the Puerto Rico Classic. So tune in.
RAYGORDONREID ( JACKSONVILLE BEACH 32250)
QUESTION TO FRAN FRESCHILLA AT 3.40PM HI FRAN WHO WINS SEC EAST
Fran Fraschilla (3:15 PM)
Obviously, all signs point to Kentucky because of Coach Cal's incoming recruiting class. But this will be a bigger dog fight than people think and I am particularly excited to see Cal and UT's Bruce Pearl go at it. Can either guy top Lane Kiffin for bulletin board material? Two teams that people need to be aware of are Vandy and South Carolina. The Commodores have a nice balanced attack and Jermaine Beal is one of the more underrated players in the country. The Gamecocks have one of my favorite players in the country in 5-9 dynamo Devan Downey, who will play in the NBA.
Mike (Austin, TX)
Hello Fran, How will the Sooners do this season? Big loss in Griffin but Warren is back I have heard great things about Gallon.
Fran Fraschilla (3:17 PM)
Mike, good question. I just saw them play last week and you are correct. They will obviously miss the big guy, but I am president of the Willie Warren fan club. He's my preseason national player of the year, because he is going to be asked to carry the Sooners. Tommy Mason-Griffin is a young Sherron Collins and to say he is equally as talented is a major compliment to him. Tiny Gallon, however, is going to be the X-factor. He is a one-and-done guy if he can stay in shape and out of foul trouble. The Sooners are not as deep as UT and KU, but will fight for the third rung on a deep Big 12 ladder.
Which conference is the best top to bottom?
Fran Fraschilla (3:20 PM)
This isn't Bryan Gregory, is it? You've got a good team this year. I'll see you in Puerto Rico...but seriously, it's safe to say that the Big Ten and Big 12 are the two deepest. But because the Big East has 16 teams, it can make the same argument. After a down year a year ago, the SEC certainly has 5 or 6 quality teams as well. Deepest conference doesn't always mean best, however. And it usually means that some quality teams at the top of the league will lose some games that may be surprising to the average fan. No one wants to play at places like Kansas State, Ole Miss, Boston College and Seton Hall this year.
Fran, maybe I'm biased but does anyone return a better 3 than Dyson, Kemba and Stix Robinson?
Fran Fraschilla (3:23 PM)
Mike, you are biased, but that's OK. Cole Aldridge, Tyshaun Taylor, Collins may have an argument with you. But I understand your argument completely. I just saw the Huskies a few weeks ago and Kemba Walker is as quick as any guard in basketball. Dyson is healthy and as good a mid-range scorer as you'll find. I was particularly impressed with the level of energy that Stanley Robinson brought to practice the day I was there. He was an Energizer Bunny. The key for Jim Calhoun to make a run will have to be production from his 4 and 5 spots. Gavin Edwards is a blue collar guy. The freshman Oriaki is a beast, but doesn't finish yet. And, of course, Ater Majok is the X-factor. I watched him do some drills and if he is as good as advertised, then UConn is a legit top 8 team.
David (College Park, MD)
I see you ranked my Terrapins #12 in the espn Power Rankings. I am curious how far you think they can go this season if the big men do what they are expected to.
Fran Fraschilla (3:25 PM)
David, they are one of my sleeper teams because they have a veteran backcourt. Greivis Vasquez has the ability to put the Terps on his back. I hear very good things about Coach Williams' freshmen bigs -- Williams and Padgett. No one gets more out of his team year in and year out than Gary does. College hoops fans will figure out that Adrian Bowie is a vastly underrated player.
Can Indiana Be above .500 this year, or is that asking too much? You have to love the job Crean is doing recruiting.
Fran Fraschilla (3:27 PM)
Indiana's overall record should be above .500, but it's doubtful this year that they can accomplish that record in the Big Ten. Nevertheless, the program is finally on solid footing. There's a core of very solid young players with which Tom Crean will rebuild with. The next step is to recruit the one great player that puts them over the top in the next year or two. When that happens, the program will officially be back. They will be in Puerto Rico next week, so I am excited to get my first look at the new Hoosiers.
I know its early, but who do you think can survive the tournament and make it to Indy?
Fran Fraschilla (3:28 PM)
LJ, here is my Final Four: Kansas, West Virginia, Michigan State and Kentucky. Bob Huggins has surprising depth this year and a couple of stars in Butler and Ebanks. I'm taking a flier on them to go to the Final Four, but most who follow WVU wouldn't be terribly surprised.
terry (st. louis)
fran....i am moving to chapel hill possibly. how long will it take for me to fall in love with unc basketball and become a die hard fan?
Fran Fraschilla (3:30 PM)
Terry, first of all, stay off Franklin Street on Friday and Saturday nights during the school year. But you'll have to decide whether you want to root for the overdog Heels when you are living there or be anti-establishment and pick a team like Wake Forest or NC State. On a serious note, you are moving to possibly the best single location for college basketball in the country, because you'll be on Tobacco Road. I hope you can get tickets and enjoy many of the great games you'll get to see.
Are expectations too high again for SIU, considering they only return 5 players from last years team along with 9 newcomers?
Fran Fraschilla (3:33 PM)
Expectations will always be high in Carbondale, because of the great tradition that's been established in recent years. I know last year's bump in the road was caused by a very young Saluki team and things will be better this season. Remember that Tony Freeman, the Iowa transfer, should be able to make an instant impact on coach Chris Lowery's team. The difficulty for SIU will be trying to climb over the established teams like Northern Iowa and Creighton. But I do think they will be at the top end of the league. Coach Lowery has a gem in sophomore guard Kevin Dillard, who is going to end up a big time player in the MVC.
Dylan (Frankfort, KY)
Isiah Thomas has already landed a top 100 recruit at FIU for next season, how long will it take before they start pouring in by the handful?
Fran Fraschilla (3:35 PM)
Good question. Isiah has a solid network of AAU and high school coaches that will help him. I think they can certainly be at the top of the Sun Belt in a short time. From there, how the program at FIU grows will depend largely on the type of resources that the school will be willing to commit to help Isiah build a top flight mid major program. But I don't think FIU is necessarily Isiah's final destination. The more success he has with the Panthers, the more likely you'll see him trying to get back to the midwest. Just a hunch.
Hey, like readin the chat. Who do you think is the most underrated team in the preseason? Do you think Louisville is under the Radar?
Fran Fraschilla (3:38 PM)
Even with the loss of T-Will and Earl Clark, it's difficult to have Louisville under the radar. Because Coach Pitino, like Gary Williams gets everything out of his team. I saw them and there's certainly enough talent for the Cards to challenge for the top of the Big East and an NCAA bid. If you're looking for an underrated team nationally, just look down the road in Nashville, because I think Vanderbilt with Jeffrey Taylor and the aforementioned Beal is a top 25 team this year. Kevin Stallings has a lot of respect from his coaching peers. Don't sleep on Missouri as well, although they lost two quality inside players. Mike Anderson has that Tiger program, if not playing 40 minutes of hell, certainly, it's in the mid-30s.
Zack (Chicago IL)
What is it about Gary Williams that allows him to compete in the ACC despite the recruiting "shortcomings" he seems to encounter every year (see list of All-American Maryland natives not to play in College Park)?
Fran Fraschilla (3:40 PM)
I have good inside information for you, because I once worked for Gary Williams at Ohio State. First of all, he will not bend rules and he doesn't kiss AAU butt. That's a big issue when it comes to recruiting the nation's best. I'm not saying that he's right or wrong, but stating what I think is a fact. But, he gets the very most out of the players he does get and every season you can count on them to knock off a highly ranked team, because of that. I'm high on this year's team because I do think there is talent in the program that can compete for an ACC title. But Vasquez will have to play at another level.
Hey Fran, What do you think about Michigans chances of competing in the Big Ten and on the national stage?
Fran Fraschilla (3:42 PM)
They are certainly a team that's worthy of top 20 consideration this year, because John Beilein's system is finally in place. DeShawn Sims and Manny Harris are a nice inside-outside combination. Although, ironically the smaller Harris can get to the rim and the bigger Sims loves the perimeter J. The more Michigan high school players figure out that Coach B makes guys better, the more inroads they'll have in recruiting. It's shaping up to be a battle of two great coaches in that state.
Can Tony Bennet turn around the UVA program enough to get them back to the tournament this year?
Fran Fraschilla (3:44 PM)
Yes. If you're following the Cavalier recruiting haul closely, UVA is having a banner season. They've gone national and it's paying off. It will take two solid classes to put Virginia back into the ACC mix, but he's an outstanding coach and person and that's had a positive effect on their recruiting.
Jared (Las Vegas)
Fran, how do you think this year's Kansas team stacks up against that 2008 squad that won one of the most talent-laden and competitive Final Fours in recent years?
Fran Fraschilla (3:46 PM)
They're very similar. Bill Self thinks that this team is actually deeper than the '08 title team. But running through the NCAA tournament is a gauntlet. Just remember there would have been no title if Jason Richards knocked down that deep 3 for Davidson. Team chemistry was phenomenal on that '08 team and that is always a coaching question going into every season.
Colin (New York)
Fran, 3 seconds left in the national championship, you need a bucket, who you taking?
Fran Fraschilla (3:47 PM)
I'm giving the ball to Willie Warren and getting out of his way. He's strong, can get to the basket, where he shot 57% inside the arc. He makes his free throws, creates his own shot. Can shoot it from deep and has outstanding vision and passing ability. Bill Self calls him the best offensive player he's ever recruited. If Willie fouls out, I would somehow try to get the ball to Luke Harrangody.
Joe (East Lansing)
What are Michigan States chances of winning it all, considering they did beat the same Jayhawks last season in the dance?
Fran Fraschilla (3:50 PM)
Good point. In fact, as you know, they beat them twice last season. But this entire Jayhawks team returns. Remember, there is no Goran Suton this year. Now, the reality is that Michigan State can definitely win it all. Lukas and his consistency is a given. Delvon Rose's health will be a question that hopefully is answered early in the year when Reymar Morgan played last season, the Spartans were 21-2. But the key to Tom Izzo winning another title is Chris Allen, Durrell Summers, two guys who so far have teased the Spartan fans with their talent. I like them enough to have them in my Final Four, but trust me, that's not going out on a limb.
Do you think Iowa State is a sleeper this year?
Fran Fraschilla (3:52 PM)
Yes. I just watched them practice a little over a week ago and they obviously have a potential lottery pick in Craig Brackins, a guy who dropped 42 on the Jayhawks last year. The keys to Iowa State will be the infusion of Marquis Gilstrip, a 6-6 SF and LaRon Dendy, a 6-9 PF. Coupled with Brackens, this is one of the best front lines in the Big 12 and easily one of coach Mac's best teams. They are definitely in the postseason mix.
John (Springfield, IL)
Is Illinois a top team in the Big 10? They are young but by the time conference play rolls around they should be ready!
Fran Fraschilla (3:55 PM)
John, excellent call. While the top 4 teams in the league are getting a lot of national notoriety, and deservedly so, Bruce Weber has exciting possibilities with this young Illini squad. Some key guys are back like Mike Davis and Mike Tisdale on the front line, an ever improving Demetri McCame in the backcourt. But the main reason for excitement are freshman guards DJ Richardson and Brandon Paul. They are the start of an avalanche of instate players coming over the next three eyars. So, it's a great time to be a fan of the orange and blue. Can we give coach Weber for some recognition for bouncing back from the Eric Gordon debacle?
Do you think that Oliver Purnell can finally take Clemson deep into the tourney?
Fran Fraschilla (3:57 PM)
First of all, Steve, no one's done a better job of ressurecting a basketball program over the last five years than Oliver Purnell at Clemson. To even talk about them getting to the NCAA tournament and going far would have been ridiculous a few years ago. The short answer to your question is yes. Trevor Booker has always been a favorite of mine. He his an absolute warrior. Demontez Stitt is maturing as a point guard in his junior year. But the main reason for excitement in Tiger land is the arrival of a terrific recruiting class led by 6-9 freshman in Milton Jennings.
Fran Fraschilla (3:59 PM)
I'm providing more of the same information on Twitter. It's Twitter.com/franfraschilla. I appreciate the couple of thousand followers already. My goal is to get to 5,000 by the end of the season. No nonsense about where I ate...most of the time. Just good basketball information.
Fran Fraschilla (3:59 PM)
I really appreciate the opportunity to chat today. Remember, 7 p.m. ET, Isiah Thomas and the FIU Panthers open up at UNC and the bevy of first round picks that Uncle Roy has on his roster.