Chat with Fran Fraschilla
Welcome to SportsNation! On Monday, 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 Monday at 3 p.m. ET!
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Fran Fraschilla (3:01 PM)
Welcome to Monday's chat. I'm on a basketball holiday these next two days, as ESPNU covers the Don Meyer classic (7:00 Tuesday Night), as coach Meyer's old school takes on Belmont. He's the winningest coach at any level. For many years he was the coach at Lipscomb, where they had some memorable battles with Belmont just two miles down the road.
Fran Fraschilla (3:02 PM)
I'm watching the Belmont Bruins practice right now, and tonight we'll see Jeffrey Taylor and the Vanderbilt Commodores in their last exhibition game.
How good u think the Illini can be although they pre-season hasn't looked so great?
Fran Fraschilla (3:04 PM)
The Illini are an interesting team. There's no doubt they have a great blend of veteran talent and bright young freshmen. As I try to analyze how they will play this year, the question I need to ask is, what will be their identity? Will they be a grind-it-out team, or a finesse team. Given that their two big guys play away from the basket, they will likely be a perimeter-oriented team. Dmitri McCamey's leadership is going to be critical. The other question is, will some of the freshmen, particularly Jeremy Richmond, have one foot in the Illini huddle and one foot out the door to the NBA.
With the Blue devils favored to win back2back titles, what do you think will be their biggest hurdle?
Fran Fraschilla (3:06 PM)
Good question, Adrian. They seemingly have all their bases covered, but obviously, throughout the course of a long season, two bugaboos can be injuries and complacency. If there is a weakness on the court at the moment, it's probably that they don't have a go-to scorer in the paint. If either Plumley brother steps up and has an all-ACC type of season, that will rectify a lot of problems. My sense is they will cruise through a regular season with two or three losses, but as history has shown us, the NCAA tournament can often be a crapshoot.
With the loss of Hummel, which is a total shame, do you believe people are overrating Purdue? Looked dreadful pre-tournament without him? Any chance they could miss the tourney entirely?
Fran Fraschilla (3:08 PM)
There's a possibility. I watched their recent game against Indianapolis, a D2 team, and my main concern is, can they get any perimeter scoring besides that of E'Twaun Moore, because JaJuan Johnson will see more traffic inside than if he was walking through Grand Central Station. A third scorer must step up for Purdue to have a successful season.
With Kalin Lucas coming back to MSU, are they a pre season final four pick for you?
Fran Fraschilla (3:10 PM)
As long as Kalin is healthy, the historical trend is that Tom Izzo will get this team deep in the tournament. The Spartans will hope they get the Durrell Summers of the tournament, where he averaged 19 points a game, as opposed to the Summers of the regular season. Draymond Green and Delvon Roe are typical Izzo forwards. Don't be surprised if Keith Appling is a force scoring off the bench.
What has to happen for Pitt to overcome that hurdle and get to a Final Four? It seems like they don't have that future NBA star or talent that can carry them through the tournament, which has hurt them many times before.
Fran Fraschilla (3:12 PM)
I prefer to look at the glass being half-full rather than half-empty. This Panther run in the past decade has been phenomenal. This might be their deepest team. To answer your question directly, they could use one more go-to scorer besides Ashton Gibb. Guys like Gilbert Brown, Wanamaker, and Robinson are really good role players. J.J. Moore could be their answer at swingman.
How do you feel about some of these team like Louisville and Syracuse who for the most part refuse to play on the road prior to conference play? Do you think it affects them come tourney time?
Fran Fraschilla (3:13 PM)
Not necessarily. To each his own in the non-conference schedule. When you play the type of Big East schedule that both do, it more than toughens them up. When you make the kind of money for a home game that both generate, there's some economic sense to what they both do. Even Kansas doesn't leave Allen Fieldhouse very often during the preseason.
Do you think Florida could contend for a national title? Or a they simply a step below a championship contender - love the way that team has been constructed and Billy Donovan's one of the best in the business.
Fran Fraschilla (3:16 PM)
I agree with you completely about Coach Donovan, although the last few years have caused him to go a little grayer. This is his deepest and most talented Florida team since the back-to-back title teams. If there is an Achilles heel, it may be inconsistent outside shooting. Parsons proved to be a shotmaker last year, and the depth on the front line by their freshmen is impressive. Obviously there are big hopes for Patrick Young as well. This is a team that should be in the top 10 all season. I'm looking forward to seeing them in Tallahassee to take on the Seminoles on Nov. 28.
Can RIU put a scare into Pitt tonight or do you think the Panthers won't suffer an opening game letdown?
Fran Fraschilla (3:18 PM)
Jimmy Barron always does a good job with the Rams, but it's rare that Pitt lets their guard down. They hang their hat on toughness, energy, and defense. I look for a tough, physical game with the Panthers getting win No. 1 of what could be 30 or more this season.
Fran Fraschilla (3:19 PM)
As an aside, If you're looking for a player on the rise, remember the name Doug McDermott, the 6'7" Creighton freshman, who could be their best player already. Yes, he is the son of new Creighton coach Greg McDermott.
Cale (Mt. Pleasant)
I think Trey Zeigler has the potential to have the most impact as any freshman this year (not saying he is the best). Do you think he can lead Central Michigan to a MAC title?
Fran Fraschilla (3:21 PM)
Certainly Trey, and Ray McCallum are both high major talents who decided to stay home and play for their dads. Trey is not going to beat you with 30 points a night, but instead, does a lot of different things to help his team during games. With some quality veterans back, and the coach's son, I can see the Chippewas competing for a MAC title this season. Of course, don't discount the Ohio U Bobcats and Akron as well.
How do you feel about Colorado this year?
Fran Fraschilla (3:24 PM)
That's an interesting question, Matt. My spies tell me that Northern Colorado star guard Devon Beitzel dropped 48 points in a scrimmage against his former coach Saturday. Mixed emotions I'm sure for Tad Boyle. To answer your question about the Buffaloes, they certainly have two players which Coach Boyle can build a season around. Corey Higgins and Alex Burks are very solid. The talk about Burks leaving for the NBA may be premature at this point, until he adds some toughness to his game. But he's a talent. Solid PG play should be the difference between a postseason appearance and staying home in March, whether it's the NCAA, NIT, or a couple of the new postseason tournaments. I think the Buffaloes will have a winning record and be playing into mid-march.
Mike (Storrs, CT)
What are the chances Uconn reaches the top 25 at some point this season? They have the best PG in the big east and a ton of shooters around him.
Fran Fraschilla (3:26 PM)
As you probably would agree, they are one of the biggest mysteries in the Big East. I look for Walker to mature into a quality leader for Coach Calhoun. Roscoe Smith could be a quality guy -- like a poor man's Rudy Gay. A double-double every night by Alex Oriakhi would help too. I haven't see them yet, so I don't know that they are a tournament team. The biggest thing they have in their favor besides Kemba Walker is that Calhoun coaches best when there's a big chip on his shoulder.
Andy (Astoria, NY)
How much better will UCLA be this year running a much more up-tempo offense? Will this hinder them at all to play Howland's tough man-to-man defense?
Fran Fraschilla (3:29 PM)
They're the West Coast version of the Huskies. A lot of question marks. The two biggest being, how good will Josh Smith be now that he has lost forty to fifty pounds. He is one of the most talented but enigmatic big men in the high school class of 2010. I'm hearing very good reports on him, and we'll see him at Kansas on December 2nd. The other major question mark for Ben Howland and the Bruins is at point guard. Chicago native and JuCo point guard Lazeric Jones has a chance to win that spot. He's not great, but strong and steady. He just has to play no-mistake basketball. Career years from Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee would certainly help as well. My sense is, the Bruins will be fighting for the conference's second or third NCAA bid deep into the regular season.
Fran Fraschilla (3:31 PM)
I'll be watching Vandy tonight and one of the country's great shooters in sophomore John Jenkins. Here are some more of my top shooters: Jon Diebler of Ohio State, Blake Hoffarber of Minnesota, Rotnei Clarke from Arkansas, Jimmer Freddette of BYU, and Jared Stohl, who plays for Eric Reveno's Portland Pilots. Thanks everyone!