Sixty-Five Things You Need To Know (Part II)

Sixty-five things you need to know about the upcoming college basketball season




 
 

Oct. 11, 2006

By Bryan Armen Graham

CSTV.com

 



BRYAN GRAHAM

Bryan is a basketball editor for CSTV.com and contributes on a regular weekly basis.
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17) Anybody following college basketball around the turn of the millennium can remember Jason and Jarron Collins, the twin brothers who helped Stanford reach the Final Four as freshmen in 1998. This year, Cardinal coach Trent Johnson -- who helped recruit the Collins brothers as Mike Montgomery's top assistant during the mid-1990s -- welcomes another pair of fraternal twins to The Farm: dual seven-footers Brook and Robin Lopez. McDonald's All-Americans both, Robin has earned a reputation for his defense and shot-blocking ability while Brook is known for a more well-rounded offensive game.

 

18) Despite the hullabaloo surrounding Greg Oden's arrival in Columbus, the race for Player of the Year in the Big Ten isn't a closed case just yet. Look for Wisconsin's Alando Tucker to transcend regional stardom during his senior campaign. The All-American forward led all Big Ten scorers with 20.0 points per game in conference play last season -- despite playing the last four months with a deviated septum stemming from a broken nose suffered against Wake Forest on Nov. 29.

 

19) Should Oden recover from his wrist injury to make the All-America first team, the seven-footer would join a select group. Only two first-year players have been named to the team in history: Oklahoma forward (and jazz bass guitarist) Wayman Tisdale and LSU guard Chris Jackson.

 

20) With Air Force, BYU, New Mexico and San Diego State positioned for strong NCAA Tournament pushes -- and UNLV and Utah looking salty as well -- the Mountain West has never looked stronger. Many pundits have earmarked the MWC as a possible four-bid league, which would be a record showing for the youngest of the Division I conferences.

 

21) Atlanta hosting this year's Final Four doesn't bode well for Georgia Tech. Only three schools have ever won a national championship while playing in their home city: CCNY in New York (1950) and UCLA twice in Los Angeles (1968 and 1972).

 

22) Despite losing Kevin Bettencourt and two-time conference Player of the Year Charles Lee to graduation, many believe that coach Pat Flannery might have his best Bucknell team yet. With proven leaders Bettencourt and Lee gone, it's up to the three returning starters -- senior point guard Abe Badmus, junior forward Darren Mastropaolo and senior center Chris McNaughton -- to lead a group of heretofore role players through perilous out-of-conference schedule. The Bison host Wake Forest (Nov. 14) and UNI (Dec. 2) while paying visits to Saint Joseph's (Nov. 19), George Mason (Dec. 3), Xavier (Dec. 20) and Texas Tech (Dec. 23).

 

23) Remember how No. 16-seeded Albany took big, bad Connecticut to the limit in their memorable first-round battle in Philadelphia last March? Well, Will Brown's defending America East champs will get a second (and less historical) shot at the Huskies this season when the Great Danes travel to Storrs for a Nov. 26 tangle.

 

24) With Douby done, Gansey gone, Foye finished and McNamara moved on, who is the top returning scorer in the Big East? The answer is Marquette rising sophomore Dominic James. Last season, the diminutive Richmond, Ind., native averaged 15.3 points, 5.4 assists and 4.5 rebounds for coach Tom Crean on his way to conference Rookie of the Year honors. Alongside since-departed sharpshooter Steve Novak, James helped lead the Golden Eagles to a first-round bye in last year's Big East Tournament -- not to mention the program's first NCAA Tournament berth since its improbable Final Four run in 2003.

 

25) There's just no better color guy in college hoops than CBS Sports staple Bill Raftery, whose unabashed enthusiasm and imaginative colloquialisms ("Onions!") could make a mid-November game between Savannah State and the Little Sisters of the Poor must-see TV.

 

26) Temple coach Fran Dunphy, successor to Hall of Fame coach John Chaney on North Broad Street, has always been as Philadelphia as a Tastykake. As a player at La Salle, Dunphy was a player on what many consider the best Big 5 team in history: The 1968-69 Explorers. In 17 seasons on the sidelines in West Philly, the longtime Penn coach led the Quakers to 10 conference championships and 48 consecutive Ivy League victories during one mid-1990s stretch. Now, with the Temple job, Dunphy becomes the first man to hold coaching positions at two different Big 5 schools.

 

27) Eight is enough: Last season, the Big East became the first conference to send eight schools to the NCAAs in the history of the Big Dance. Connecticut and Villanova earned No. 1 seeds, Pittsburgh and Syracuse garnered No. 5 seeds, while West Virginia (No. 6), Georgetown (No. 7), Marquette (No. 7) and Seton Hall (No. 10) rounded out the roll.

 

28) The only coach in the storied history of Kansas basketball to finish with a losing record was James Naismith, better-known as the game's inventor, who amassed a 55-60 mark from 1898 through 1907.

 

29) With its top eight players returning from last season's Missouri Valley champs, Southern Illinois appears to be the class of the conference. Leading the way for coach Chris Lowery is rough-and-tumble slasher Jamaal Tatum, a 6-foot-2 guard whose 15.0 points and 3.3 assists per game were team highs a year ago.

 

30) Last season, Connecticut led the nation in blocked shots (8.9 per game) for the fifth straight season, establishing an NCAA record. But while shot-swatting specialists Hilton Armstrong and Josh Boone are no longer in Storrs, when has the cupboard ever been bare for coach Jim Calhoun? Enter Hasheem Thabeet. A 7-foot-3 center from Tanzania by way of Houston, the late signee is expected to sustain the strong tradition of rebounding and shot blocking that has become a UConn benchmark.

 

31) Now or never: It's the last chance for Syracuse's seniors -- a once-ballyhooed recruiting class -- to realize their lofty potential. Gut-check time looms for classmates Demetris Nichols, Darryl Watkins and Terence Roberts, who comprise one of the biggest and most experienced frontcourts in the Big East. (The fourth member of the class, Louie McCroskey, announced his intent to transfer to Marist during the summer.)

 

32) Northeastern's Matthews Arena may be the oldest college basketball arena still in active use. But the original white maple wood court at Oklahoma State's Gallagher-Iba Arena, which was installed in 1938, is the oldest court still being used by a major college team.

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