Chat with Fran Fraschilla
Welcome to SportsNation! On Friday, ESPN college basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla will drop by to take your questions.
Fraschilla 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 Fraschilla Friday at 3 p.m. ET!
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Buzzmaster (3:01 PM)
We're getting Fran!
Fran Fraschilla (3:03 PM)
I'm chatting from beautiful and cold Columbia, Missouri. I'm watching the Mizzou Tigers' "Fastest 40 Minutes in Basketball" as they get ready for No. 10 Kansas State. Couple of tidbits, this is the best start for KSU since Tex Winter in 1959. Missouri's young freshmen and sophomores are scoring 70% of the points for Mike Anderson. It should be a great opener to the Big 12 Conference.
Dan (Kansas City)
Since you have the call for the KSU-Mizzou game this weeekend, who's your pick to start the Big 12 1-0?
Fran Fraschilla (3:05 PM)
Most times, the home team in a league like the Big 12 has an advantage, because of the crowd. There will be a full house in the Mizzou arena tomorrow, a place that can get really loud. This is Kansas State's first true road game. But this team has an experienced backcourt. It's a good test for Frank Martin's club.
Fran Fraschilla (3:05 PM)
A lot of people might not realize this, but Jacob Pullen 6-foot junior guard is one of the most improved players in college basketball and is a front runner for Big 12 player of the year. Obviously guys like James and Collins will have something to say about that.
Charles Musil (Blue Rapids, Ks)
Have you been surprised with how well Kansas State has played this season?
Fran Fraschilla (3:07 PM)
No. This team returns an awful lot of experience and any time you have a coach as demanding about playing hard and executing on both ends of the court like Frank Martin has been, good players will get better. The Wildcats have good players who play like a bunch of hyenas.
Just how good do you think Jamie Dixon has this Pitt squad right now?
Fran Fraschilla (3:10 PM)
I'm glad you asked me. Jamie Dixon, once again, is doing an incredible coaching job with this young Panther team. He has created what I call an "execution culture." What I mean is that they don't just run plays, they execute plays. Next time you watch them, look at how good their screening and cutting are, it's outstanding. I've been extremely impressed with Gibbs and Woodall. No question that having Brown and Dixon back has helped. This team has improved dramatically the last few weeks. In talking to assistant coach Herrion, he told me that the Panthers are happy to have Dixon's toughness back in the lineup. Needless to say, with their great start so far, they are going to be a dangerous team. Because of their youth, there's still room for a lot more improvement come March.
Do you see Texas and Kansas being undefeated when they meet in feb. ?
Fran Fraschilla (3:11 PM)
The liklihood, Randy, is no. Kansas will, I believe, will already have been at K. State by then and with the way the conference is shaping up, there are a lot of tough places to win on the road this year. If they are, it may be the story of the season. They are, in my estimation, the deepest teams in the country and it would be fitting if they stayed one and two by the time they meet.
Fran Fraschilla (3:12 PM)
Keep in mind, this may be, if not the best the Big 12 has ever been, it's certainly the deepest it's been. There are 11 teams who still have a legit chance to make the NCAA tournament.
Andrew (Acworth GA)
With all this talk about how John Wall is the best freshmen. Who does KU's Henry compare the Wall
Fran Fraschilla (3:13 PM)
Although Henry has had a great start to his career and is averaging over 16 points per game, but I just don't think anyone is physically and talent wise up to the level of John Wall. Think of him as bigger and more explosive Derrick Rose. He may be the third straight point guard that John Calipari not only puts in the lottery, but also becomes the NBA Rookie of the Year, because Tyreke Evans, Calipari's former protege, may have that locked up by the all-star break. Wall is a special talent.
Obviously, either Duke or UNC will probably win the ACC but what other teams have a chance at the crown? Thanks
Fran Fraschilla (3:15 PM)
I'm absolutely certain that either one of those teams will win the regular season title. But I wouldn't rule out an improved Florida State team as someone that could win the ACC Tournament title. I love Georgia Tech's young talent, but I don't see them improving enough to win a championship in the league this season. By the way, UNC still has to figure out their guard situation for them to reach the level that Roy Williams wants for this team. I'm not sure that happens this year.
Ryan (Kansas City)
What's the one Big 12 team that has no shot?
Fran Fraschilla (3:16 PM)
Colorado is still a work in progress. I'm not saying that Nebraska or Iowa State are locks, I just think 11 are in contention. I see the league getting anywhere from 5-7 bids, with 6 being a nice round number.
Fran, Coach Anderson had a great quote in his chat here when asked about his team this year. He said it would be "33 minutes of hell and 7 minutes of what the hell are we doing?" Do you see the Tigers in the NCAAs again this year?
Fran Fraschilla (3:19 PM)
Keep in mind Mike, this is a team that lost three 1,000 point scorers from the Elite Eight run a year ago. But, yes, I do think it will be an NCAA tournament team. But because of the youth and experience, there will be a number of moments of what the heck are we doing? Most importantly, he has an established a winning style, like at UAB and his recruiting has picked up because of his success. Former NBA player Paul Pressey has a son Phillip, one of the best guards in the country, and will matriculate here. Paul was a roommate of coach Anderson at Tulsa. But the fastest 40 minutes of basketball system is in place.
Out of the four unbeatens which one do you think has the better team?
Fran Fraschilla (3:20 PM)
I think Kansas is the best team in college basketball, followed closely by Texas. With Kentucky having the most room for growth by the NCAA Tournament with their youth. I love Purdue's team, particularly their starting five, but I wonder if they can withstand an injury to any of their key guys. So much of who stays unbeaten will have to do with their upcoming schedule. But at this point, they would all make great No. 1 seeds.
Fran Fraschilla (3:21 PM)
By the way, kudos to the Cornell Big Red for taking the Jayhawks to the closing moments of a great 15-round fight. That was a game that Apollo Creed would have told Rocky, "ain't gonna be no rematch."
for those of us paying attention to college football and now turning to hoops, what are some storylines to start following?
Fran Fraschilla (3:23 PM)
Good question, Dale. Here are a few: the Big East has followed up one of the great conference runs in history a year ago with another upcoming great season. The slippage is not as great as any of us anticipated. West Virginia and Villanova are Final Four quality teams, but Syracuse is better than we all thought. The Big 12 is deep and has the two best teams in college basketball at the moment, Texas and Kansas. Both programs are coached by guys who are not only good coaches but great recruiters.
Fran Fraschilla (3:24 PM)
John Calipari has enfused Kentucky basketball with so much energy that the Big Blue Nation is beside itself with excitement. The Pac-10 stinks this year, so don't worry about anything on the West Coast. And finally, here's hoping that Ohio State's Evan Turner gets back to the level he played with before injuring his back. He's a special talent.
Fran Fraschilla (3:25 PM)
P.S. Oh yeah, Duke is really good. Not that that's a surprise, but they are a fun team to watch. Jon Scheyer is finally getting the attention that he's deserved for the last year and a half.
What are some mid-majors that will scare big teams come ncaa tournament time? Usual suspects like Siena, Dayton, Western Kentucky?
Fran Fraschilla (3:27 PM)
Don't tell Bryan Gregory of Dayton that they're a mid-major, but, yes, those three teams would be on my list. Cornell, certainly, is another one. Northern Iowa is even better than a year ago when they won the MVC. Out west, the Zags of Gonzaga are no longer considered a mid-major have retooled and are as good as ever. But the Portland Pilots are dangerous out of that league. Akron in the MAC is a team loaded with really good mid-major players. College of Charleston, despite being without one of its best players the entire season, showed what they can do with their win earlier in the week over UNC.
Fran Fraschilla (3:27 PM)
A low-major team to keep an eye on would be the Bearcats of Sam Houston.
Coach K continues to play his starters tons of minutes in blowout games. Will the lack of development of bench players combined with tired legs of the starters in March lead to trouble again?
Fran Fraschilla (3:29 PM)
It's always a concern if you're a coach that you keep your players fresh at the end of the season. While Duke is devoid of depth in the backcourt, I get the feeling that Coach K has enough experience to know how to keep this team sharp. When I coached, I liked to keep practices in February to no more than an hour and make sure we kept everyone healthy and rested. He's been around the block enough to know the right way to handle his team. More importantly, an ill-timed injury would be the biggest concern and that's something you can never account for.
Is there a Big Ten team that could sneak into the top three and nip Purdue or MSU for the conference title?
Fran Fraschilla (3:31 PM)
Donnie, assuming that you think of Wisconsin as the third best team, I don't think there's anyone else that can seriously challenge. Ohio State may have a chance if Evan Turner can return to full strength soon. I like Minnesota as an NCAA team. And I think Northwestern has become very pesky.
Wake Forest is playing under the radar this year. Do you think they will make the Big Dance? They are 11-2 with their losses coming at Purdue and against a surprising W&M.
Fran Fraschilla (3:34 PM)
I think they're an NCAA team for sure and love the way Smith has run this team this season. He may be the point guard in the country that's most under the radar. What great quickness and passing ability he has. As his late coach Skip Prosser would say, he's not killing anyone in the first three rows with his passing any more. Free throw shooting is a concern with him, and it's his one chink in his armor. I love his size and athleticism. Al-Farouq Aminu is a likely lottery pick in June. I like their club.
Is the MWC really as good as people are saying?
Fran Fraschilla (3:36 PM)
Yes. The top four teams, I believe, will compete for three NCAA bids. The league has some great out of conference W's already and any of those four teams that can consistently win on the road will be battle ready for March. Having coached in the MWC, I have always been a huge fan of Dave Rose and not surprised at all of the success of Jimmir Freddette. He played on an AAU team with PSU's Talor Battle. Steve Alford's got a solid starting five, led by two great under the radar guys in 6-6 Hobson, a juco transfer and 6-7 Roman Martinez, who is a huge fan favorite in Albequerque.
How many teams will the much-improved A 10 send to the big dance?
Fran Fraschilla (3:38 PM)
I'm glad you mentioned that Freddy. The A-10 is having a superb non-conference run so far and conference play should be terrific. Dayton, Temple and Richmond have played NCAA level basketball to this point and I wouldn't discount the young Xavier Muskateers, who've lost a couple of heartbreakers. Jimmy Barron is doing a great job at Rhode Island. If LaSalle gets healthy, they can be a threat as well. Charlotte, at times, has been very good in the preseason and they have an outstanding freshman. This is shaping up to be one of the most competitive A-10 races since Calipari and Cheney were locked in some fight to the death battles. It should be fun.
Fran Fraschilla (3:40 PM)
I coached my team to think about three seasons - the non-conference, the conference and the post-season. Non-conference play is over. Most teams know who they are right now. But conference play and the great rivalries and arenas bring out the best in these players. I'm looking forward to it. I'll be covering the KSU-Missouri game tomorrow and I can't wait to do the Pitt-UConn game in Hartford next week. We'll talk next week.