Monthly Archives: October 2009

Virginia, a Quicker Turnaroud Than Thought

Tony Bennett passed up the Indiana job and took the job in Virginia a year later. Hard to figure out, Indiana regardless, is still Indiana as Tom Crean put it.

Perhaps, Bennett did not want to be faced with the overhaul that needed to take place at IU. Initially it would seem UVA is in a difficult spot as well, and while there is a lack of top talent, this will get turned around no later than this year.

Mamadi Diane is the lone graduate from UVA last year leaving the cupboard full of players. Sly Landesberg should be the cornerstone of the program right now after a great freshmen year and should receive help from junior big man Mike Scott. For the future of the program, Bennett and staff are making progress on the recruiting trail, keeping Tristan Spurlock for this class and for 2010 landing Will Regan, James Johnson and KT Harrell.

The Cavs finished a lowly 10-18, but 7 losses were by 7 points or less. Offensively, UVA was putrid, but a bright spot for Bennett is defensively they ranked 64th in defense. Not a great number, but that is Bennett’s trademark side of the ball.

The ACC is a balanced and competitive league this year, most have the Cavs pegged for an 11th or 12th place finish. And while I’m not sure who they jump, I see UVA cracking the top 9 in the conference and being a thorn in the side of teams in the league for the foreseeable future.

Butler = Name Recognition

So, the polls came out and Butler is ranked 10th. Yes, they return everyone. Yes, the trio of Howard, Mack and Hayward is quite good. No, I am not buying that Hayward is a lottery pick, but he should win POY Honors in Conference. Stevens appears to have been a great hire and one of the better young coaches in the game.

But 10th really? For what? Because now they are Butler.

To preface, Butler far exceeded expectations last season with one of the youngest teams you will ever see. They should continue their strong play this season and will be in the Top 25 all year.

Compare Butler a team last season that had their most impressive win come over Xavier and the only other high major quality program they faced was Ohio State. They lost three times in conference and did not win their conference tournament, falling to Cleveland State.

This year for marquee games they get; Minnesota and then from December 8th through the 19th they get consecutively; Georgetown, Ohio State and Xavier. And then they are gone to the Horizon league. Where only Wright State will pose as any sort of threat.

You tell me what this Butler team and coach have done to be thought of higher than a Dayton team who won a tournament game last season (something Butler failed to do) and returns a core headlined by a future pro in Chris Wright. Or Siena who returns the core senior group of a team that won a tournament game for two consecutive years and have run through their league. Is the Horizon that much better than the MAAC?

How about BYU? Northern Iowa? Utah State? San Diego State? They are for the most part equals to this Butler team.

Butler is solid on paper, but nothing to blow you away, 61st in offense and 50th in defense last year per Kenpom. When you are a Top 10 that signifies an elite status, which I simply do not see in Butler compared to other Mid Majors.

Overrated or underrated, one thing is for sure, Butler has arrived in the national spotlight.

Power Rankings

The following (ranked in order) are some rankings that I have come up with through certain attributes, including; each starter, bench, coach, home floor, returning starters and overall percieved talent. Included are all BCS Conferences and a handful of Mid Majors (so far)

Team Total
Kansas 70.5
Michigan St 69.3
Texas 68.02
West Virginia 68
Villanova 67.7
Purude 67.6
Kentucky 67.55
UNC 67.35
Tennessee 66.95
Georgetown 66.45
Duke 65.9
Ohio St 65.85
Cal 65.2
Uconn 65.05
Miss State 63.68
Michigan 63.65
Oklahoma 62.95
Butler 62.85
Louisville 62.81
Siena 62.59
G Tech 62.57
Vandy 62.13
Illinois 62.11
Maryland 62.05
Minnesota 61.95
Washington 61.89
Cincinnati 61.41
BC 61.4
Syracuse 61.1
Wake Forest 61
Clemson 60.6
FSU 60.4
Okie St 60.375
UCLA 59.69
Missouri 59.6
Dayton 58.74
VA Tech 58.7
Tulsa 58.7
BYU 58.7
Arkansas 58.68
Texas A&M 58.51
Gonzaga 58.47
Baylor 58.34
Kansas St 58.22
So Carolina 58.2
Akron 58.18
Ole Miss 58.15
Florida 58.11
Iowa St 58.09
Wisconsin 58
Notre Dame 57.9
Duquesne 57.89
Xavier 57.7
LaSalle 57.56
Northern Iowa 56.94
Richmond 56.69
Arizona 56.66
Seton Hall 56.65
Alabama 56.55
Utah St 56.35
Oregon St 55.84
UNLV 55.78
Old Dominon 55.32
Illinois St 54.94
LSU 54.83
Houston 54.8
Creighton 54.79
Pitt 54.59
Oregon 54.59
Penn St 54.39
Wash St 54.35
SDSU 54.31
Temple 54.28
Utep 54.1
Memphis 54.05
Miami 54.02
Northwestern 53.9
Virginia 53.89
Nevada 53.83
Auburn 53.83
Northeastern 53.57
Niagara 53.5
Witchita St 52.9
Kent State 52.45
Utah 52.42
New Mexico 52.35
Saint Johns 52.3
Arizona St 51.6
Indiana 51.05
USC 50.82
Texas Tech 50.65
NC State 50.64
Rutgers 49.75
Colorado 49.61
Providence 49.37
Marquette 49.35
South Florida 49.35
Nebraska 49.04
Stanford 48.56
Georgia 48.29
Iowa 47.25

Don’t Forget About Da’Sean

Da’Sean Butler is not the athlete or talent that Devin Ebanks is, but he will be the leader of this years West Virginia squad primed for a great season. Butler a hold over from the Belein era, has transitioned well into the more physical nature of Huggins brand of basketball. Looking back now, you would wonder how Belein ever recruited Butler in the first place.

We have seen Butler’s minutes and numbers steadily clime in his first three seasons. To improve on the 17 and 6 posted last season may be difficult with the emergence of Ebanks and sophomore Kevin Jones, but Butler still should be the go to guy.

It was reported by Huggins let he may have to run the point if Truck Bryant and Joe Mazzulla remained removed from the team, that is no longer an issue (shocking) and Butler can focus again on scoring the ball and working as a secondary ball handler.

While the lottery pick praise and potential Big POY status is being thrown on Ebanks, my guess is when WVU is on the cusp of the league title it will be Butler front and center

Top 25

My Pre-Season Top 25

You can view collective thoughts on the Top 25 at benchpoints.com

1. Michigan State
2. Kansas
3. Texas
4. Purdue
5. Kentucky*
6. North Carolina
7. West Virginia
8. Villanova
9. California
10.Mississippi State*
11.Tennessee
12.Butler
13.Ohio State
14.Georgetown
15.Duke
16.Uconn
17.Michigan
18.Dayton
19.Siena
20.Illinois
21.Washington
22.Minnesota
23.Oklahoma
24.Maryland
25.Vanderbilt

* Assuming eligibility issues are resolved

Why Michigan State over consensus Kansas? Well, first off they beat KU twice last season. The loss of Walton is eased by their wing talent, and should actually become much better on the perimeter this season. The loss of Suton is big, but give Tom Izzo bodies (which he has) and he’ll get enough out of them. The potential they have to go small with Lucas, Allen, Summers, Morgan and Roe is intriguing. And still, give me Izzo over Self in a big game. The recent troubles in Lawrence don’t help, either.

Why West Virgina over Villanova? You don’t lose your starting front court and best player and win the Big East. Period.

Butler, Siena and Dayton. The consensus non BCS teams to sneak in most Top 25′s. Siena has the most talent and depth in the history of the program. Butler returns everyone. Dayton has a stud in Chris Wright with their nucleus back. If I were to add more non BCS teams, BYU and Utah State would likely lead the list.

Willie Warren is great. But who helps him. I am not high on Tiny Gallon. Tony Crocker for the better part of last year was dreadful. Mason Griffin is a good addition and likely his sidekick for the year.

Maryland and Minnesota. Short on talent, but posses coaching and experience. Maryland is short on talent and is no real threat to anyone but Gary can still X and O. Tubby has a program on the rise.

Watch out for Vanderbilt. Ogilivy is nearing 100%, Kevin Stallings can coach, Jenkins may be the best shooter in the freshmen class and Jeff Taylor can play.

The Big 10 is pretty good. Boring, but good.

The Impact of Wall and Sidney

The news yesterday of eligibility issues surrounding John Wall and Renardo Sidney were surprising on the Wall front a tad, and not so much with Sidney.

Where would either side leave their respective teams?

Wall With Kentucky: A Final 4? Legit national title contender? With Wall’s talents, those goals are attainable. Seemingly, a perfect fit for Coach Cal’s dribble drive motion offense, Wall would ease the concern on Kentucky’s lack of shooters by creating. At 6’4 he and fellow freshmen guard Eric Bledsoe could form an incredibly athletic back court and be effective on both sides of the floor. Some believe Wall would instantly be the best point guard in america this year, even if he is not, he brings a unique skill set and talent that no other guard in the SEC possesses.

Result: Elite 8, potential Final 4.

Kentucky Without Wall: If the SEC were the league we saw last year, no problem. UK and Cal would manage just fine. This year? Not as well. For this team to advance in March past the first weekend, Wall is imperative. Bledsoe would have to immediately step into a role he may not be ready for and the backcourt depth becomes depleted. Patrick Patterson, Demarcous Cousins, and Daniel Orton would need to carry the team, something I’m not sure the latter two are ready for. And with a team lacking of shooters, and down their top creator, they may become offensively challenged. Calipari’s recent offensive sets have done well with Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans leading the way. Eric Bledsoe as a freshmen?

Result: One and done in the NCAA Tournament

Sidney with Mississippi State : Potentially the top front line in all of college basketball with Jarvis Varnado and the possibly healthy John Riek. The Bulldogs bost a solid roster this year; Dee Bost, Ravern Johnson, Romero Osby, Barry Stewart, Kodi Augustus and Phil Turner. Sidney would add a much needed scoring boost and versatility along the frontline. While he has struggled with his weight and off the court issues, Sidney is an offensive talent that few of his freshmen peers can match. Mississippi State would become a much deeper and dangerous team with his addition.

Result: Sweet 16 with Legitimate Elite 8 aspirations

Mississippi State Without Sidney: Honestly, at this point, the addition of Sidney would be a nice bonus. Whether he would admit it or not, Rick Stansbury would probably agree. Without Sidney, Mississippi State is a very talented team in the deep SEC with the nations most dominant defensive player. Bost is a solid lead guard entering his sophomore year and the combination of Stewart, Turner, Johnson and Augustus provide versatility on the wing. Romero Osby would need to come along further this year in an expanded role and the health of John Riek would come into play, as just 10-15 minutes a game would be helpful up front.

Result: Round of 32 with a shot and staying through the weekend.

All Chuck Team

JERRY: I have to dribble, if I give it to you, you just shoot. You’re a
chucker.

GEORGE: Oh I’m a chucker.

JERRY: That’s right, everytime you get the ball you shoot.

GEORGE: I can’t believe you called me a chucker. No way I’m a chucker, I do
not chuck, never chucked, never have chucked, never will chuck, no chuck!

JERRY: You chuck.

GEROGE: Kramer am I a chucker?

KRAMER: You’re a chucker.

GEORGE: All these years I’ve been chuckin’ and you’ve never told me?

JERRY: Well it’s not an easy thing to bring up.

Tajuan Porter, Oregon – There were 9 games in which Mr. Porter hoisted 10 or more three point attempts. Oregon, who didn’t win many games as is, only won once when Porter completed that feat. I can buy Oregon as a sleeper in the Pac 10 going through Dunigan and Catron, but not under the lead of Porter and his quick trigger.

Mike Rosaro, Rutgers – He gets a slight pass a freshmen on a terrible team. Still someone who ammases a below average 95 offensive rating (kenpom) should not be in the top 30 nationally in getting shots off. He will become a good shooter, but numbers of 39% from the floor and 30% from three are not acceptable. Freshmen on a horrible team or not./

Scottie Reynolds - Okay, so he’s toned it down a notch recently. Of course that coincided with a Final 4 appearance. I laugh when people call Shooty a point guard, thankfully for Villanova those duties will now reside on the shoulders of the much more suited Corey Fisher moving Shooty off the ball. Reynolds has turned into the Tyler Hansbrough of college guards picking up cheap fouls due to flailing his body around aimlessly.

Lacedarius Dunn – Maybe the guy with the most ability on here. However 48 assists in 70 career games is not conducive to looks on the next level. No, he is not a post player.

Luke Harangody – Reality, Harangody ranked 453rd in offensive efficiency. He shot just 46% from the floor as a ‘dominant’ big man. He ranked 4th nationally in possession % and 11th in shot percentage. Uh, in other words, he better get numbers. As a lot of big men do, Bepop (Ninja Turtles reference) has fallen in love with the outside shot a tad bit much. What do early reports say about this year? That he’s even better out there and Mike Brey says fire away from deep. When did Luke Harangody have his most efficient season? Why, of course, his freshmen year when he was strictly around the basket.

Irving and Barnes, Not The Missing Pieces

Kyrie Irving will be all accounts, give his attentions to attend Duke tomorrow on ESPNU. Certainly a good get for Coach K and staff. Harrison Barnes may be to follow, which would give Duke a great recruiting class.

Where does this leave the program as a whole? Irving will be joined on the perimeter in 2010 by Tyler Thornton, Andre Dawkins, Nolan Smith, and Seth Curry. If Barnes comes along, add him as well. Now that leaves up front, the Plumlee brothers, Ryan Kelly, Josh Hairston and Olek Czyz. Czyz is just 6’7 and did not see much action at all his freshmen season. Ryan Kelly and Josh Hairston both a ¾ hybrids who are face up offensive players. Leaving the pressure on the Plumlee’s, Miles and Mason. This year should go along way in seeing what they can bring to the table for the future. The wild card of course would by Kyle Singler but odds are he finds his way into the top half of the first round this year.

This is not to rain on the Duke parade. But before they are once claimed again as the nation’s top program and NCAA titles are on the way, there is still a gaping hole on the roster. Are those bigs good fits for Coach K’s current system, sure? Are they tough enough? Can they defend the paint or score in it? I don’t know, my gut says no.

No doubt they have increased the level of talent this past year in the program, and while they may feel they are on their way to attracting the next Jay Williams and Shane Battier, does it matter if there is not the next Carlos Boozer or Elton Brand? There is not even a Shelden Williams as far as I can see. While some have questioned Coach K’s recruiting and ability to want and go get the top flight talent, a problem in the foundation of the roster still is there.

Perhaps I’m proved wrong by the collection of finesse big men or one or two of them become physical players. But as of right now, all that talent on the wing is going to need help inside. The good (or bad) thing about these players now becoming Dukies, is they are not 1 and done talents. Irving would project to be a 3-4 year player, Barnes 2-3. So they may just be good enough on the wing to get by. Maybe they land a stud big man in 2011, but all indications are a main target of Duke’s is Austin Rivers, who, you guessed it, is an elite guard.

All Defense, BSC Conferences

Jeremiah Rivers, Indiana

- Coming off a transfer year from Georgetown, Rivers will see more playing time at Indiana and will immediately become one of the leagues premier defenders. Through his two years at Georgetown his play against the likes of; Ty Lawson, Jonny Flynn and Scottie Reynolds did not go unnoticed. He saw the floor because of what he brought defensively. Offensively, if he hit the rim, it could be considered a success. Perhaps with a year off his offensive game is more refined, but Tom Crean should be rest assured that he has an asset on one side of the floor. Kalin Lucas, Talor Battle, E’Twaun Moore and others should not be thrilled about Rivers stepping onto the floor this year.


Chris Kramer, Purdue – Kramer has earned a rep over the past couple years of one of the toughest players in college basketball. And while at times he may be physically and athletically overmatched, he finds a way to get the job done. His strength is not ever in question rather his stature, at only 6’3 at the 2 spot. But he is a pest, as Manny Harris would certainly attest. Kramer ranked 11th nationally in steal percentage. The highest returning mark for a BCS player.


J.T. Tiller, Missouri – Tiller would certainly be on an ‘all glue’ team. Last year teammates credited him as being a driving force, particularly on defense. This year he must assume more of a leadership role. The third guard on this list, Tiller also checks in at 6’3. He logged the third most minutes on Missouri’s team in Mike Anderson new age ’40 minutes of hell’. Tiller himself ranked 56th nationally in steal percentage.


Damian Johnson, Minnesota- Johnson’s size and length provide flexibility for Tubby Smith and the Gophers. Able to guard multiple positions, Johnson on most nights will take on the biggest challenge the opposition can throw out there. Evan Turner was quoted in this blog saying that Johnson is his toughest match up all season long. Johnson’s versatility is seen in his ability to block shots and collect steals. Ranking 29th nationally in each category last season.


Jarvis Varnado, Misissippi State – Thabeet received all the attention recently for blocking shots. Fact is, Varnado was better at doing so. Varnado had a block percentage of 15.35, Thabeet 11.94. Varnado’s number last season was actually down a tiny bit from 16.06 in 2007-2008. Varnado is also good on the glass collecting 8.8 boards last season.

10 Questions that Must Be Answered

On the eve of first official practices, programs around the country have question marks.

In no order, Here are 10 problems that must be solved for the success they wish to attain.

Texas Finds their Point Guard? Whether it be Balbay, Vardez Ward, Justin Mason, Avery Bradley, Jai Lucas or a combination of a few of those names, Texas will need a reliable one. Their frontcourt can be as good as any, and likely will be. My vote would be to just stick Mason and Bradley back there and see what they can do. At the very least, they would be a terror defensively. My guess is Bradley goes a long way in solving this question mark.

Michigan State fills Suton’s void? Goran Suton will not be replaced entirely, at least not on the offensive end where he added much needed balance. I do believe Tom Izzo, given bodies, will make rebounders and defenders out of what he has to work with; Draymond Green, Tom Herzog, Derrick Nix and Garrick Sherman. While it’s very possible and likely Izzo goes small often with the perimeter talent in store, to advance deep in March yet again, the big guys will need to contribute and keep getting better.
Kansas gets its act together?

Cal has an inside presence? Jerome Randle, Patrick Christopher and Theo Robertson would have a chance to win the NCAA Tournament in a 3 on 3 under 6’6 league. To take the next step, Mike Montgomery must get the best out of his big guys. Harper Kamp and Jamal Boykin are solid but limited in what they can bring to the table. A guy to watch is Max Zhang a 7’3 big man from China.

Renardo and Riek? I am a fan of Mississippi State this year, even if they do not have either. If they do have these two to plug into the frontline along side Varnado and Osby, watch out. Sidney’s issues are eligibility, Riek’s injury related. Hasn’t been much news on either front, yet.

Just how good is Evan Turner? We know he is one of the elite wings in the country, now can he handle playing point guard? My guess is he can manage, with Buford and Diebler at his side to take some pressure off. Turner does a very good job in picking his spots and getting his teammates involved as is, it should not be that difficult of a transition. If he can pull it off, he will be in the hunt for NPOY.

Kentucky and Chemistry? It’s not a case of the old meshing with the new (Patterson and Miller with the froshies) but rather, can all the young talent just come together? How do the 3 big man coexist inside? Is Cousins up to the challenge from Coach Cal to be a banger inside? Calipari has always had assortments of talent recently at Memphis and has molded teams together well, my guess is by March this team will flourish. The question then is, who makes shots?

Rebounding at Louisville? Samardo Samuels and Terrence Jennings are in the fold, why is this a question? Well, Earl Clark and Terrence Williams depart with a combined 17 rebounds. Samuels, who has the look of a bruiser inside, averaged a disappointing 3.6 rebounds in Big East play, Jennings was hardly a rebounding force in his limited time, specifically on the defensive end at just a rate of 11%. Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, Reginald Delk and others will have to put their noses and make it a collective effort on the glass.

Just how good is Wesley Johnson? “A lottery pick”. “Will be one of the best foward’s Boeheim has coached.” “Not over hyped.” All are words you could here being uttered by those in and around the Syracuse basketball program. Johnson and Iowa State transfer is a natural three with, an ability to do just about everything well. But can he be great? With a year off, it’s tough to gauge just where he is at right now and the answer won’t come until he hits the court for real.

Duke’s depth? Let’s be honest, there is little. Scheyer, Singler, and Smith will be good enough to keep them afloat in the ACC and into March. From there, where does the team go? Andre Dawkins will need to mature in a hurry and the front court of old faces, Zoubek and Thomas must come along with the new faces, Plumlee’s and Ryan Kelly. An injury to Scheyer or Singler would be a disaster, barring injury, they still will be called on to go the distance in almost any competitive game this season.

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