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

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



 
 

Oct. 13, 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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49) Don't call it a comeback: These guys had been around for years before injuries reduced their 2005-06 seasons to footnotes. Creighton long-range specialist Nate Funk (shoulder), Villanova inside-outside threat Curtis Sumpter (knee), Purdue fill-it-up scorer Carl Landry (knee) and UCLA slasher Josh Shipp (hip) are all looking forward to big rebound years.

 

50) UCLA fans upset that Jordan Farmar bolted for the pros can take refuge: Rising sophomore Darren Collison is a more-than-capable replacement at the point for the Bruins. And if the returning Shipp can step in and compensate for Farmar's lost offense, Ben Howland's team won't miss a step.

 

51) There might not have been a talent in college basketball last season more overlooked than Rice swingman Morris Almond. The Powder Springs, Ga., native averaged 21.9 points -- and a league-record 25.1 per night during league play -- to pace Conference USA in scoring as a junior. After considering the NBA draft, Almond opted to return to Houston for his senior season and hopes to lead the Owls to their first NCAA tournament appearance since 1970.

 

52) Louisiana State returns three starters from last year's national semifinalists. But also back in Baton Rouge is mercurial point guard Tack Minor, who red-shirted last season after starting all 30 games as a sophomore. Look for the 5-foot-11 sparkplug to offer steady leadership and provide some offensive punch from the perimeter.

 

53) Sleeping giants with tantalizing potential that could awaken this season include Oregon swingman Malik Hairston, Maryland post man James Gist, and Arkansas guard Gary Ervin, last seen on a series of strong Mississippi State teams before transferring to Fayetteville.

 

54) Missouri has hosted more NCAA championship games than any other state.

 

55) One of the trendiest picks to enjoy a coming-out this season is DePaul, which is the only Big East program to return four double-figure scorers. A Dec. 2 meeting with Kansas will afford the Blue Demons with an immediate opportunity to prove themselves to the overwhelming I'll-belive-it-when-I-see-it contingent. Underrated coach Jerry Wainwright returns all five starters, including standout swingman Sammy Mejia, from a team that seemed to perform better at the tail end of last year's inaugural Big East campaign. (Their 108-69 lambasting of Syracuse on the eve of the conference tournament ring a bell?)

 

56) Last season, Boston College established a school record with 28 wins. With Louis Hinnant and Craig Smith lost to graduation, the Eagles will be hard-pressed to one-up that mark -- but All-American candidate Jared Dudley will ensure Al Skinner's club remains in contention for the ACC title.

 

57) Where have you gone, Bryce Drew? Valparaiso is gearing up for its final year as a member of the Mid-Continent Conference. Starting in the 2007-08, the Crusaders will compete in the Horizon League.

 

58) After wrecking his ankle prior to last season, Louisville rising junior Juan Palacios never did look 100 percent on the court. If the rested and recovered 6-foot-9 swingman can return to freshman form -- when Palacios helped the Cardinals to the Final Four -- Rick Pitino's side will be a serious player in the Big East. 

 

59) Cincinnati's team nickname originated during a football game against Kentucky in 1914, when one of the school's cheerleader started a chant about fullback Leonard K. "Teddy" Baehr: There may be Wildcats, but we have a Baehr-cat on our side! The nickname would stick.

 

60) Arizona's first-round victory over Wisconsin in the NCAAs last March lifted the Wildcats to 20-12 on the season and extended the program's streak of consecutive 20-win seasons to 19 straight -- the longest such uninterrupted run in the nation.

 

61) It's only a matter of time before possession-based statistics enter the mainstream in college and pro hoops coverage. But stat geeks have been hooked on the figures -- which measure a team's offensive or defensive efficiencies independent of game tempo -- for quite some time. One notable advocate is Wyoming meteorologist Ken Pomeroy, whose eponymous basketball rankings have become a sub-cultural lightning rod in recent years. If you love numbers, check out Pomeroy's web site (www.kenpom.com) for more college basketball information than you'll ever be able to process.

 

62) Put up or shut up: Among the coaches that find themselves on the hot seat headed into the season are Michigan's Tommy Amaker, Minnesota's Dan Monson, Colorado's Ricardo Patton and Vanderbilt's Kevin Stallings.

 

63) The longest active postseason win streak in the nation belongs to South Carolina. Last spring, the Gamecocks earned the dubious distinction of winning back-to-back National Invitational Tournament titles with a 76-64 victory over Michigan in the championship game -- which ran the program's streak to 10 straight victories in the Little Dance dating back to 2005. Including his time at Wake Forest (which won the NIT in 2000), Gamecocks coach Dave Odom has amassed a career record of 21-3 in six NIT appearances.

 

64) Only a fool would commit to pick for the national champion in early October, before a single high-top has been laced and the first suicide has been run. (Does anybody remember the overwhelming Michigan State sentiment a year ago at this time?) Like Socrates said, "the only true wisdom is knowing that you know nothing". But despite a comparative lack of preseason hype, I can't shake this feeling about Alabama, that a special season is afoot in Tuscaloosa. In ironman Ronald Steele, the Crimson Tide have the nation's best point guard running the show -- a guy who shoots, passes, defends, handles and thinks as well as any floor general in the country. Jermareo Davidson and Richard Hendrix comprise one of the more bullish post tandems in the nation, and Mark Gottfried has emerged as one of the nation's better head coaches. Once this team survives the fires of one of the nation's premier conferences, the Crimson Tide will prove one tough out in the NCAAs.

 

65) That being said, I think Mike Krzyzewski returns to Durham from his summer reenergized and recommitted to his program, after coaching Team USA in China over the summer. The backcourt of Greg Paulus and DeMarcus Nelson -- along with inside man Josh McRoberts -- provide a sound foundation for a team that will depend upon each member of a talented four-man recruiting class: fill-it-up off guard Gerald Henderson, Redick clone Jon Scheyer, future pro Lance Thomas and seven-footer Brian Zoubek. Year in and year out, over the course of a tough out-of-conference schedule against teams that play a variety of styles, Krzyzewski breaks his players down and builds them back up with tenfold confidence, preparing his charges for any and all future challenges. This year's team -- slated to face Kent, George Mason, Davidson, Gonzaga and Georgetown -- will prove no exception. The Blue Devils will enter ACC play as capable as any team in the country and should only improve from there. And so, against all of my better judgment, I humbly submit a title game prediction: Duke over North Carolina in a national title game for the ages.