Hey all. Happy belated Halloween. I hope each and every one of your Halloween costumes was greeted with copious high fives. (Mine was not.) Let's talk some hoops, shall we?
When does the 2011-2012 College Basketball Season Begins?
This is a curious question. Google, buddy! It's your friend! The problem, of course, is that in college hoops this is a valid question -- there is no real exact start date to the season, which has always been confusing for casual fans. For now, mark Nov. 11 -- the UNC-MSU game -- as the unofficial beginning of the season. From there, the marathon and Champions Classic gets going, and it's full speed ahead.
Hey Eamonn, i know we are all dying for bb to start and it really does no good to ask you questions about the regular season in pre-season cause i see the same questions over and over in your chat wraps and sure your just as bored of them as i am but forgive us fans, we just cant get enough... anyway i was more curious about how you guys work at ESPN. Do you and Bilas, lunardi, or Vitale talk every day about stuff? Or do you just come up with your own analysis and go with it? Are you guys all really good friends? Anyway, would just love some insight on how the gears work at ESPN.
I can't divulge state secrets like that. I'd have to "terminate" this conversation.
Brennan,With the huge losses of E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson but the long-awaited return of Robbie Hummel, can the Boilers finish in the top 3 in the B1G? Can they rebound from last year's disappointing early NCAA Tournament exit and go further? Your honest predictions and opinions are welcomed!
I hate to say it, because I admire the program, and I don't think any college hoops fan will be rooting against Robbie Hummel this season, but no, I don't think Purdue is a top-three Big Ten team. Hummel is still finding his way back from the injury -- he told me at Big Ten media day he was still feeling his way around practices and not yet at full speed, though he felt like he was getting there -- and with all the turnover and role transitions there, I think Purdue is in for a slight slide. That doesn't mean they're going to be in the Big Ten cellar, though.
Does the Illini have a chance to win the Big Ten this year and if not, they have a mediocre season, is Weber out with the new AD Illinois has?
I don't think anyone is going to top Ohio State this season, and if someone does, I don't think it will be Illinois. That said, I do think Illinois can be this league's quasi-dark horse -- there is still a lot of talent there from Weber's past few recruiting classes, and D.J. Richardson and Brandon Paul could form an excellent backcourt tandem now that McCamey is no longer running the show. I also like Meyers Leonard as a tougher, more forceful interior presence. The key is defense. Weber's teams have to play good, solid man-to-man defense. When they're just so-so, they struggle.
As for Weber's job security, it is certainly an issue, yes. I don't think he's on a super-tight leash, and I think he deserves the chance to see these young players develop and come together for this season and perhaps beyond. But there's no question former AD Ron Guenther's departure removes a layer of security. If Illinois disappoints and fans start to revolt, it could get ugly.
What is the likelihood that the tournament stays at 68 teams for the foreseeable future? The NCAA needs to learn that scarcity/high standards creates value. It works for Harvard.
There are no guarantees here, but there are a couple of overwhelmingly positive signs. The first is that the NCAA genuinely seemed to listen to the outcry over the 96-team idea when it was initially proposed. The second, and most important, is that the NCAA was able to land its 14-year, $10.8 billion TV rights deal with CBS and Turner without major expansion. That deal is in hand. The money isn't going anywhere. Why change a good thing now?
Hey Eamonn, everyone is talking (rightfully so) about the UNC-MSU game on the carrier, and of course, the UNC-UK game, but I think the UNC-Wisconsin game during the ACC/Big10 Challenge should be very interesting as well. Do you foresee any chance Bo Ryan's grinders can hold Carolina to around 70 points and steal a win on the road?
It will be a momentous pace-oriented battle. UNC will want to run and run and run. Wisconsin will want to walk and walk and walk. If the Badgers can get stops in the half court and balanced, efficient scoring -- if they don't let UNC get long rebounds and easy secondary break opportunities -- they can stay in the game. But even then, it's going to be incredibly difficult to win.
Terrence Jones from all indications is a beast thus far this year. Is it possible Terrence could be the favorite for player of the year?
I wouldn't say the favorite, if only because he is going to be playing alongside so many talented guys who are also going to get touches and minutes in that offense. It may be hard for him to put up the kind of counting stats needed to win the NPOY award. But you're right -- everything we're hearing about Jones so far indicates he'll be vastly improved from his freshman season, which is pretty scary to think about. He was already very good.
Why don't you like Teen Wolf?
This comes from a tweet I posted last night complaining that the NBA lockout had forced NBATV to show Teen Wolf instead of, you know, actual basketball. I got a ton of responses to that, mostly from people informing me that I was far from the first to notice this and therefore rather clueless. Alas. But no, I don't dislike Teen Wolf. I simply prefer Derrick Rose to Michael J. Fox.
I was surprised to see my Cal Bears ranked #24 to open the season. Does that seem about right to you?
Yes and no. Let me explain. Yes, because it seems right that the media would have the Bears there because they have so many returning guards, and teams with strong returners typically get some benefit of the doubt that they'll improve during the preseason. No, if only because I'm not sure that maxim is necessarily true.
How far do you think UCLA will go this season, and who will win the PAC 12?
I think that frontcourt is one of the best in the country. If UCLA gets even marginal guard play, they're probably the Pac-12 favorite, and from there a solid tournament run should be in the cards. (That's vague, I know, but it's Nov. 1, so it should be.)
Here's a two-parter: Did you notice where Ken Pomeroy announced he would be moving towards a subscription based service? Second-part: Will you loan me $20?
First question: Yes, I did notice, and I say good for Ken. The Internet isn't required to be free, and what Ken does to advance knowledge of college hoops is well worth the $20. It's a vital site, and if you like college hoops even a little bit, you should pony up the cash. It's, like, four days worth of Starbucks for a year's subscription. Come on now.
Hey Eamon, I enjoy your columns and insight. Are you tipping Cal to win the Pac 12? If not, who is your choice? Thanks!
I like UCLA here, but I'm also higher than most on Washington. Tony Wroten Jr. was incredibly impressive at the Nike Skills Camps. I think the Huskies are being slept on a bit.
Do you know your name makes you sound smart. I like it...anyhow I want your NCAA final four prediction right now so it is on paper (or cyberspace) so you can brag later on..
I have to say: I've never heard that before. But thank you! As for my predictions, Final Four picks are pointless until we see the bracket, so I'll just play it safe and say UNC, Kentucky, UConn and Ohio State. As of today, those four look head and shoulders above the rest of the field this season.
Eamonn is it just me or is Gonzaga being slept on a bit?
No, you're right, they are. If Elias Harris gets back to his freshman self, they'll be tough. Also keep an eye out on the point guard spot -- Kevin Pangos, a freshman from Canada, could end up being an X-factor.
Are you shocked the Kaleb Tarczewski chose Arizona or Kansas? And how much trouble are Bill Self in the Jayhawks right now? Could Billy be out the door if he doesn't land a monster 2013 class?
It's a bit surprising, I guess, but Sean Miller has been destroying the recruiting path for two years, so it's not totally shocking. And no, Self is in no trouble at Kansas. That's silly. The guy's got a national title to his name (it didn't happen that long ago, guys) and wins conference titles every single year. Sure, this is a bit of a tough recruiting stretch for the program, but come on: He's not going anywhere.
Best student section you've seen? What about most elaborate student section prank/sign/chant?
Man, that's tough to say. The Cameron Crazies are obvious, but they're worthy of the hype; I'll never forget how rattled I was as a student journalist when four of them starting reading my story back to me over my shoulder on press row. But there are a ton of good student sections that fly under the radar. Purdue's is vastly underrated, for what it's worth; last year, when they sung "Party In The USA" to Jared Sullinger at the free throw line, it took me a solid five minutes to stop laughing and get back to taking notes.
Pick one underrated storyline that intrigues you the most entering into the first month of the season.
I'm not sure how underrated this is, but I'll be fascinated to see how Michigan State handles its first two games -- the Carrier Classic on Nov. 11 and the Champions Classic on Nov. 15. That's a game in San Diego vs. UNC (on a freaking aircraft carrier!) followed by a cross country trip to play Duke in Madison Square Garden. If this is a bounceback year for MSU -- if they're tougher and more resolved than last year's disappointing team -- we may see some of it as early as the first week of the season.
Why is Kansas ranked so highly in the preseason polls? I get that Tyshawn Taylor is back and that Thomas Robinson and Elijah Johnson are expected to become major factors but they have almost no depth and lose so much from last year, and bring in very little because of academic inconsistencies
Well, much of the poll voting was done before the losses of freshmen Ben McLemore and Jamari Traylor, which does really hurt Kansas's depth. But I think Robinson is going to be a star, so that's something. Really, it's probably about respect -- last year, we thought Kansas would take a step back, and they were just as good as ever. At some point they earn the benefit of the doubt.
Dangit Eamonn, I wanted ideas for the Paint Crew, not praise for what we've already done! Fresh ideas!
Sorry, Aneesh, but it's your job to come up with funny stuff and my job to laugh and tweet about it during the game. I don't make the rules.
What do you think of UNLV?
I think they have the chance to be one of the best teams west of the Rockies. I'll be fascinated to see how they adapt to a more uptempo still under Dave Rice -- he says he wants to put the "Runnin'" back in Runnin' Rebels -- but there's a ton of backcourt talent with which to do so.
Will the Gaels compete for the WCC title this season?
I think they're third place in that league behind Gonzaga and BYU. But counts as competing for the title, doesn't it? All it takes is a slip-up or two from one of those teams. They should be right there.
Marquette and Cincinnati both finish in the top 4 of the Big East this year. A lot is being underrated about the returning talent and depth of these two.
I think both are rated about right -- they're in most people's top 25, after all -- but that doesn't mean you're wrong. If either team even slightly exceeds expectations they'll be right in that mix.
Is it conference championship or bust this year for Baylor? Do you Scott Drew's bunch can make it to the Elite 8 or better this season?
They have that sort of talent, yes. Perry Jones and Quincy Miller are lottery picks. Also, if Kansas struggles with all the turnover and lack of depth, the Big 12 will be there for the taking. It will come down to point guard play -- if Pierre Jackson is merely mediocre (meaning he doesn't turn the ball over on 30 percent of his possessions like A.J. Walton) Baylor could be downright scary.
Do you see a link between last year's OSU team and this year's UConn team. They lose player of the year (or runner up), but have a stealer recruiting class come in, and end up as an even better team.
Yeah, when we were filming a video in Bristol (spoiler alert) a couple of weeks ago I mentioned Andre Drummond being the new Jared Sullinger, and that's sort of what I meant. UConn lost a really talented, super important player in Kemba Walker, but Ohio State did the same with the Turner-Sullinger swap and the team was better for it. The only thing that gives me pause is the leadership aspect of Walker's game. Every big moment or big shot, he was there. Turner was a slightly different beast at OSU -- less vocal, less charismatic. UConn will need to find that edge from someone.
Judging by what you've seen in both exhibitions as well as practices throughout the summer...who do you see as the backbone for Duke by the time March Madness comes? Curry, Rivers, or another player?
I think it will have to be Rivers, followed by Andre Dawkins and Seth Curry. The latter two are diabolical long-range shooters. If Rivers can control the ball, score a bit on his own, and make sure that duo gets lots of open looks, Duke's backcourt could be fearsome.
Do you think UConn will really be ruled ineligible in 2013 under the new academic requirements, or will Calhoun get another slap on the wrist, similar to this year's suspension?
Well, there is no wiggle room with the NCAA's new APR rule; it's not like a violations punishment, which can vary based on the committee on infractions' judgement. If UConn's APR doesn't cross the threshold, they'll be ineligible for the tournament -- it's just that simple.
Any news or updates on R. Sidney from Miss. State? Just wondering what to expect from the Bulldogs this year...I think they can actually surprise some folks.
They are, as always, an intriguing team. We've heard a lot about Renardo Sidney's offseason workouts and how he's finally starting to get in shape, but we heard that last year, too, and when Sidney got on the court he looked worse than me at pickup basketball on the Monday after Halloween. If this team succeeds, I think it will have more to do with Dee Bost and UTEP transfer Arnett Moultrie than with Sidney.
Do you think Coach K will be able to reign in Rivers' on-court maturity issues?
You have to say yes, right? I mean, he's Coach K. If you don't listen to him, you won't listen to anyone -- and that will make NBA scouts very nervous. You have to assume Rivers knows that.
What is your outlook for Butler this year?
I think Butler is due for a step back, but they should still be the class of the Horizon League. It will depend on the development of Andrew Smith and especially Khyle Marshall, who could be the Bulldogs' next emerging star. Without the backcourt scoring of Shelvin Mack, this team won't be quite as dangerous. But I'd never write off a Brad Stevens-coached team this early.
Who's your Big West champ?
UC-Santa Barbara. Orlando Johnson is a rare mid-major talent. They have to be considered the favorite.
What do you think of Florida's chances in the SEC?
I like Florida quite a bit, actually. I think Kenny Boynton and Erving Walker need to be more efficient shooters, but the addition of Bradley Beal -- who could play the three -- and the development of Patric Young (who is an absolute man in the post) could round out a really talented lineup. They're conference title contenders, no question.
ACC/B10 challenge winner this year? Also game by game picks please ;)
I won't go game-by-game, but I think the Big Ten edges another one out this year. It will be close as always, though.
UConn vs FSU in the Battle 4 Atlantis, we have youth and offense vs experience and defense, who do you have?
I'll take FSU in an upset. That ferocious defense will come fully-formed; UConn may take a month or two to gel and figure things out.
What do you think about DePaul winning 5 Big East games this year? Too high or low?
Hmm. I'd say that's just about right, actually. Purnell has added a bit of talent this year -- nothing that will knock your socks off, of course, but enough that DePaul should show some improvement by the time league play rolls around. Brandon Young and Cleveland Melvin were interesting enough last season. Their improvement is worth watching.
are there any teams that you feel my Hoosiers just don't quite have a chance against yet? Everyone can get beat any given night, but, definitively one team you just can't see IU beating this season?
Kentucky. IU will be better this season, but I can't see them lining up with the Wildcats and standing much of a chance at all.
Tell me I got a tourney squad this year. I'm not talking NIT either, were going to the real thing. Royce White for President.
I will say ... maybe! It's a tough project Mayor Hoiberg has taken on, trying to get cast-off guys with reputations like White and Chris Allen to gel into a team. But if White is half as good as Ames folk are saying he's been this summer, the Cyclones will be in the tournament picture.
Remember before you became a big-timer and you'd chat for 3hrs at a time?
I am no more or less of a big-timer now then I was then. I just have more work to do, and my editor rightfully cautions me about getting stuck in marathon chat sessions. He keeps me in line. But I'll take questions for a few more minutes here.
The other response I considered was "Yeah, I remember. What's it to you, peasant? You're lucky I deign to chat for even a few minutes! Someone fetch me a Fresca toot de suite!" But I figured that might not go as well.
I got Rivers and Khem Birch as the freshmen for my fantasy team. Will they both get good minutes?
Rivers for sure, and I'd say Birch will as well. Jamie Dixon has never been huge on freshmen minutes, but the Panthers lost so much in the middle this summer that Birch may have to contribute a lot from the start. Nice picks.
Out of the big 5 schools, who would you say has the better year? Could temple finally have a better year than nova?
You know, this is nothing against Temple, because that is a deep, experienced team with a very good backcourt, but I still think Villanova is being somewhat unfairly maligned in this discussion. Yes, the past two seasons' collapses have been ugly, but if Wayns and Yarou have it together both are extremely talented. It may be Temple's year, but I'm not willing to go all the way there just yet.
Can Scoop Jardine cut down on the mental mistakes and lead Syracuse to a Final Four?
I haven't caught that particular religion just yet. I need to see it first. That's part of the reason I'm a little down on Syracuse -- not much, but a little bit.
What are the chances that Syracuse and Pitt play in the ACC in 2012-13?
Hmm. I'll take a wild guess and say 50-50. But if I was the Big East, and I felt like my conference was on the precipice of dissolution, I'd probably force both schools to stay as long as possible, too.
Unheraled ACC player with most potential for a monster year, Michael Snaer or Durand Scott?
I'll go with Durand Scott. And if this counts as "unheralded," I think NC State sophomore CJ Leslie (a touted recruit who struggled last season) could be due for a breakout campaign.
Will Lonnie Kruger be able to resurrect the Sooners basketball program? Or will his tenure in Norman prove to be an exercise in futility?Where's Billy Tubby when you need him? :)
When I did my hire grades in the spring, I was initially unimpressed with the Kruger hire, simply because I thought it was a bit of a retread. But Gottlieb (who tends to do this) talked me into liking it. Kruger has been solid everywhere he goes. I'm not sure he's going to resurrect Oklahoma and make anyone forget about the Blake Griffin years, but he's a good guy to begin the slow process of lifting this program out of its current talent-drained/impending-NCAA-sanctions purgatory.
I asked you last time about how Festus "for the rest of us" Ezili's suspension. Now that he is inured for 6-8 wks how will that hurt my Commodores?
As Kevin Stallings said the other day, it hurts much more than the suspension. Not only will he miss more time with the injury -- including two crucial nonconference games vs. Xavier and at Louisville -- but he can't practice with the team while he's hurt, so his eventual return could be awkward and shaky at first. It's hardly a season-killer; there are plenty of games to play after the middle of December. But it could take a big bite out of Vanderbilt's NCAA tournament resume early in the year.
Ivy League predictions?
I think Harvard is the favorite for a reason -- they're just so much more talented than the rest of the league this season. Princeton will be in the title mix again, but I'm not sure they'll be able to keep pace throughout the league season.
Is arkansas a fringe tournament team if freshmen Ky Madden and BJ young are as good as advertised for Mike Anderson?
This is an excellent question. I just wavered and deleted my answer three times. I'll say yes, but with an emphasis on "fringe." I love Anderson's style and what it can do to opponents, but installing it with a group that is so freshman-reliant is bound to cause its fair share of headaches, too. If everything goes right, they may be in the bubble picture, but that's as far as I'm willing to go.
What will become of the WVU lawsuit against the BE?
I hate to answer an earnest question with a snarky answer, but hopefully it, like the rest of conference realignment news, gets sucked into a space-time vortex and is never spoken of again. Man, I hate realignment.
What freshman are you the most excited to see play?
Kentucky's three top freshmen -- Teague, Kidd-Gilchrist and Davis -- are right up there. (You're from Lexington, so I assume that's what you wanted to hear. I'm a people-pleaser, y'all.) But I am also very excited to see what Austin Rivers can do at Duke, what Quincy Miller will bring to Baylor, what Arizona freshman Josiah Turner and Nick Johnson can accomplish in their first season, how good Tony Wroten can be at Washington, whether Cody Zeller can get IU out of the Big Ten cellar, and whether P.J. Hairston can be the perfect missing perimeter piece for an already terrifying North Carolina team. And many, many more.
MSU notoriously struggles early in the year, any reason to think that changes this year? Both UNC and Duke should have their way, right Eamonn?
I think UNC and Duke will win both of those games, yes. MSU just isn't there talent-wise. What I would watch more closely for is how MSU goes about those likely losses and what that will say about the team's identity going forward. It sounds vague and decidedly non-statistical, but in talking with Draymond Green and Tom Izzo at Big Ten media day, that was the biggest missing piece from last season.
Is the ACC back on the way up, or at least a more competitive product? Virginia Tech need big production from the freshman to compete?
I think this year is going to be a bit ugly outside the top three. There just isn't the talent and depth of a vintage ACC there. And yes, Seth Greenberg will need big production from his freshmen, but I think he's excited for a reboot with a new group of guys.
All right, guys, I'm going to cut things off here. If you didn't get your question answered, send it to the mailbag link below and I'll try to get to it in tomorrow's Hoopsbag. Thanks, all. Peace.
And here's the link. Hasta luego. http://espn.go.com/sportsnation/mailbag/_/id/34673/college-basketball-nation