Join Me today for a Live Chat Starting at Noon Today for the ESPN Tip Off Marathon:
Join Me today for a Live Chat Starting at Noon Today for the ESPN Tip Off Marathon:
Just wanted to bring some news for my loyal readers:
1) Tomorrow night I will be on Raphielle Johnson's show over at hoopstalklive.com talking about the beginning of the college hoops season and players to watch for this week and this season. Make sure to tune in at 6:30 pm ET and have your questions ready.
2) The great guys over at Ballin' Is A Habit compiled a must see list of the people you need to follow on Twitter for all of your College Hoops news. Even if I wasn't on it (which I am and it is an honor), I would recommend it for all serious college basketball fans. Make sure to check out the list over at their site.
Thanks to everyone who has been reading, I greatly appreciate your support.
It is time for Part II of the NBA Draft Blog Season Preview of the Big East (Please check out Part I here).
The Good: Coach Keno Davis is without last year’s leading scorers Jamine Peterson and Sharaud Curry, and his team will be hard-pressed to do any better than last season. He does have talent in the backcourt, and that could be enough to keep
The Not-So-Good: There isn’t much depth on this team, and
The Question Mark: There are a lot of questions here, but with such a young roster, the question to me is which of the young players, besides Coleman, will step up and make a name for themselves? Brice Kofane is raw, but is very athletic and has very good instincts, especially on the defensive end. Batts had a year to mature last season, and could help on the boards immediately. Ron Giplaye is physically ready to compete, though he is also very raw and basically uses his strength to overpower players.
What Will March Bring?: To expect any more than last year’s 12 wins is asking a lot. 10-12 wins should be about right for this team, though better times seem to be ahead.
The Good: There is a lot of excitement in
The Not-So-Good: The bench isn’t very deep and lacks experience, especially on the offensive end. Also, the frontcourt lacks any real size with Johnson and Gilvydas being the tallest players at just 6’8. It will be important for team to pressure the ball as much as possible to allow them to get out in transition and get some easy baskets.
The Question Mark: Is there anyone on the roster capable of replacing
What Will March Bring?: There should be a slight improvement in this first year under Rice, though I don’t think there is enough talent here for a big leap in win total. My guess is 18 wins and between 9th and 12th in the Big East.
The Good: The Bobby Gonzalez fiasco is now over and Kevin Willard will need to pick up the pieces. It’s a major task, but Willard was mentored by 2 legends, Rick Pitino and Kevin’s father, Ralph. Luckily, he has some good players to help make the transition. The man who will shoot from anywhere, Jeremy Hazell, is back, and if he learned the difference between a good shot and a bad shot, he could be a pretty good player. He has fantastic range on his jumper, but a lot of that comes from him not being strong enough to go to the rim. Don’t expect much more out of him other than scoring, as he is an average defender and not much of a ball-handler. Herb Pope, coming off a good season which ended in the worst possible way (Ejection for a cheap shot in the NIT), collapsed while playing in the off-season. He will be back and ready to go, and if you haven’t seen him play, he is someone to watch. A wide body with a soft touch, and the ability to outrebound anyone of any size, Pope makes things tough for anyone around the lane. However, he isn’t a great defender, especially off the blocks, and he needs to develop a more varied offensive game. Jeff Robinson and Keon Lawrence are both back for their senior season, and they will be joined by Jordan Theodore and Ole Miss transfer Eniel Polynice in the guard rotation. Theodore has great playmaking ability, and should thrive under the more disciplined Willard offense. Watch for freshman Fuquan Edwin, a
The Not-So-Good: Shot selection was a major issue last season, especially with the guards. Willard will install a much more-disciplined approach to offense, though being careful not to hold back the athletic prowess of his team. How they adjust after playing in Gonzalez’s much more frenetic pace will dictate how the early season goes. There is not much size in the frontcourt behind Pope, other than freshmen Patrik Auda and Aaron Geramipoor, neither who is ready for serious minutes.
The Question Mark: Can Hazell reign in his shoot first mentality for the good of the team? There is no denying that Hazell hit many big shots last year, but his shot selection bordered on awful. Part of that was an undisciplined offense, but many times Hazell just launched shots for the sheer reason that he could. Hopefully, Willard will be able to get him a good amount of looks while keeping everyone else involved.
What Will March Bring?: There is plenty of experience here and hopefully enthusiasm from the new staff rubs off on the players. This is a group that can finish anywhere between 6th and 10th in the Big East, but I think they do enough to finish towards the former and grab one of the last berths to the NCAA Tournament. Pope will certainly get looks from NBA teams toward the early second round, as well as Hazell.
The Good: No team had a single greater personnel loss than
The Not-So-Good: No Jones means no go-to scorer and no real slasher who can get into the lane and finish. There is also very little in the way of perimeter shooters, especially from behind the arc. It will be very important for the two posts to play together, meaning one of them has to become more adept at playing outside the lane at times. Famous is more athletic, but he is also more efficient in the post.
The Question Mark: Is anyone capable of stepping into Jones’ shoes? The short answer is no – there is no one on the roster approaching his talent. Heath will need to adjust his offense to focus on his strengths, which is now on the blocks. Gilchrist and Famous are both capable of putting up 15+ points every night, if the execution is there and they get the ball in the best possible position. Craft will need to be sure to execute the offense to make this happen.
What Will March Bring?: There should be a drop from last season’s 20 wins – most likely looking in the 14 to 16 win range. Famous could be a 2nd round pick today, but a solid season can vault him into the late first round.
The Good: Another program with a lot of excitement buzzing around it is the
The Not-So-Good: The frontcourt has good size, but no legitimate big man outside of Dele Coker. Evans does a good job, but he could have problems against taller and quicker big men. Rebounding and defense will need to be more team-focused to insure that this deficiency is not exploited. Watch out for potential playing time issues as well, as Lavin has inherited a very deep team who all played a good amount of minutes. Lavin always preferred a much tighter rotation at UCLA, so there will need to be an adjustment.
The Question Mark: There is one major question coming into this season – can Steve Lavin turn
What Will March Bring?: I would love to say that St. John’s will get back into the NCAA Tournament this year, but I am not convinced yet. They will certainly be on the bubble, but how they handle the rigors of their Big East schedule is unknown. If I had to pick make a decision today, I say they are the last Big East team in and possibly the last team overall to get into the NCAA Tournament. Kennedy will definitely attract attention from NBA scouts, and could go as high as the mid-second round.
The Good: Another year, another very good Jim Boeheim team. While the team will certainly miss the leadership of Andy Rautins, the athleticism of Wes Johnson, and the toughness of Arinze Onuaku, Coach Boeheim has a nice mix of returning players and newcomers to make another run at a Big East title. Expect Kris Joseph to make the leap to one of the top players in the country. Joseph is very strong and quick, has a good first step, is a good offensive rebounder. His jump shot needs to be more consistent, especially from 17 feet out. On defense, he does a good job being active in the 2-3 zone, though he needs to keep his energy level consistent. Scoop Jardine will be running the point and will look to build on last year’s solid season. He is very effective in transition, can go to the basket or pull up and shoot the jumper and can be a spectacular passer. He needs to be careful about letting the game slip away from him. When the game picks up pace, he tends to try and force things at top speed. Brandon Triche will also be in the backcourt as the team’s best perimeter shooter. He is still needs to improve on getting to the basket, and hopefully comes back stronger this season. Mookie Jones should see more time this season in the same role that Wesley Johnson played, especially exploiting the baseline on offense. Rick Jackson will be back playing the tough-guy role missing in the absence of Onuaku.
The Not-So-Good: There are not many holes on this team, but the ones that are there could be major issues. Melo could be the difference between a good and a great season for the
The Question Mark: Can Kris Joseph be a go-to guy? He is very talented and can score in a variety of ways, though he is more strong than he is athletic. If he can become a more consistent perimeter shooter to keep defenses off balance, there is no reason why
What Will March Bring?: There is certainly enough talent here to win the Big East, though that could be dependent on the progression of the freshmen. My guess is that they finish second to Pitt in the Big East, though if I was to pick the Big East team most likely to make the Final Four, it’s the Orangemen.
The Good: Scottie Reynolds is now in the D-League, but Jay Wright has the weapons to get the Wildcats to a second Final Four in 3 seasons. This is a typical guard-heavy Wright team, led by seniors Corey Fisher and Corey Stokes. Fisher, who recently scored 105 points in a summer league game, will be the primary scorer and late game go-to guy. Fisher is capable of playing either guard spot, has the ability to score from long-range or take the ball to the hoop, and he has very good court-vision. His decision-making needs some work, as does his on-ball defense. Stokes is also an excellent shooter, though he doesn’t have the ability Fisher does to create his own shot. He is a very good defender, especially on the perimeter and provides help on the boards. The potential breakout players this season are Maalik Wayns and Mouphtaou Yarou. Wayns does an excellent job at the point, controlling the tempo of the offense as well as seeing the floor very well. He is extremely quick and has little problem finding holes in the defense to get his shot off. He is a good defender, though he has a tendency to gamble too often and end up out of position. Yarou will man the middle, and if his development continues, he has the ability to be a double-double player. He is much better playing with his back to the basket and he has a few go-to moves with nice touch on his shot. The biggest areas he needs to improve are his lack of aggressiveness, which should improve in time, and developing a face-up game to compliment his post play. The rotation will be filled out by Dominic Cheek, a solid shooter on the wing, Antonio Pena, a forward who has developed into a decent scorer and rebounder, and freshman JayVaughn Pinkston who’s skill set right now is more of an under-sized power forward, but he projects to eventually play on the wing. He has very good range on jumper, though he is very inconsistent, especially with the timing of release.
The Not-So-Good: The biggest problem that Villanova has faced over the last few years has been the perimeter focus on their offense, especially 3 or 4 guard sets. Often they are left in the position where if their jumpers aren’t falling, they are in danger of falling behind quickly. It will be important to for Yarou to the next step in his development to give the Wildcats a true low post option. Fisher and Stokes will need to prove themselves as team leaders in the absence of Reynolds.
The Question Mark: Does Wayns eclipse Fisher to become the Wildcat’s best player this season? Wayns is arguably the most talented player on the team – an excellent ballhandler, scorer, defender and athlete. His biggest issue in his freshman season was not seizing the opportunity to show what he can really do when he was on the court, instead deferring to the veteran players. Expect Wright to let him loose this season, and he should be one of the Big East’s best by the end of the year.
What Will March Bring?: Top 4 in the Big East, potentially winning it all if Yarou establishes himself in the post. They have the talent to make a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, again if Yarou shows what he can do. If he doesn’t, they are still capable of winning a game or two in the NCAA’s. Fisher will get a look from NBA teams, but he will need to show that he has good point guard skills to go with his scoring ability.
The Good: A Final Four trip last season was just the beginning of Bob Huggins’ rebuilding of the Mountaineers basketball program. Team leader Da’Sean Butler and Devin Ebanks are gone, but point guards Joe Mazzulla and Truck Bryant are back. Both bring different skills to the court, and Huggins has found ways to get them on the court together. Mazzulla is the more natural point guard, while Bryant is at his best when going to the basket. Both of them need to improve their perimeter shooting, but both are also strong defenders and extremely tough – prototypical Huggins players. Kevin Jones was very impressive last season, battling strong in the lane and being a force on the offensive boards. On top of that, he has great range on his jumper, though his shot selection needs improvement. Defensively, he is a bit heavy-footed, but he does a good job using his body to defend the post. Turkish center Deiz Kilicli showed excellent low post skills after he became eligible last season and should contribute a lot more scoring and rebounding this season. Freshman Kevin Noreen is very similar to how I described John Henson above, though Noreen is a much more-skilled offensively than Henson. He does need to add strength to be effective in the Big East. Freshmen David Nyarsuk and Noah Cottrill both have the potential to be top-level players, but will most likely need another year before they contribute.
The Question Mark: Is Jones capable of being a premier player in the Big East? Jones is uniquely talented, with excellent athletic ability and a legitimate scoring threat anywhere on the court. The key to his development lies in improving his basketball IQ, knowing what his teams needs from him and focusing on that. If he can figure out the mental part of the game, he may be one of the biggest threats in the conference.
What Will March Bring?: The Mountaineers could be one of the Top 6 teams in the conference, with a chance at being one of Top 4, depending on the development of their key players. They should be safely in the NCAA Tournament and have the talent to at least make a Sweet 16 run. If Jones was to decide to come out next season, he could be a mid-first round pick.
That wraps up our look at the Big East. Make sure to check back tomorrow for a look at the West Coast Conference, followed by the
The NBA Draft Blog Conference Season Previews continue with a look at one of the toughest conferences in the country – the Big East. As always, there is plenty of talent, but a 16 team conference takes its toll on the members come February and March. As usual, Pitt and
The Good: Coach Mick Cronin’s squad lost its 2 top players from last season and will most likely be a much better team. Lance Stephenson and Deonta Vaughn will be missed, but the voids will be filled by a variety of players who are ready to show what they can do. This year’s group will be led by big man Yancy Gates, who will be debuting a new, slimmer look. Gates has very good size and uses his body well. Around the rim, he has improved his footwork and his finishing skills. He needs to become a better rebounder for his size, and hopefully will be able to go after balls quicker with less weight on him. It will be important for him to play aggressive this season for the Bearcats to get the most out of him. Gates will be joined in the frontcourt by fellow returning starters Rashad Bishop and Ibrahima Thomas. Bishop is a solid swingman, who showed an improved jumper last season. He is also a good defender who can guard multiple positions. Thomas is a long, lean, athletic forward who is very good at altering shots and using his athleticism to grab offensive boards. Cashmere Wright takes over for Vaughn at the point and has the potential to be one of the best point guards in the Big East. He has a great first step and can get out in transition or take his man off the dribble. He sees the court well and his decision-making improved as the season went on. He needs to improve finishing at the basket and becoming consistent with his jumper. This season will also be the debut of Sean Kilpatrick, a smooth combo-guard who is capable of scoring from anywhere on the court. Hopefully he has improved his defense during his redshirt season. Freshman Justin Jackson will provide another strong option in the post. He is a great athlete and very active around the basket. He runs the court well, though he needs to improve his ballhandling and his jumper.
The Not-So-Good: Perimeter shooting, especially from behind the 3 point line, will need to be improved. There is also a need for a go-to guy, with both Vaughn and Stephenson gone. Wright has the attitude and demeanor to fill this role, though it is yet to be seen if he can hit the shots when it matters. Also, outside of Gates, there isn’t much post production. Freshman Kelvin Gaines is talented, though raw and will be hard-pressed to contribute immediately.
The Question Mark: Can Gates take the next step in his progress to become a dominant big man? Gates made great progress last season, though he seemed to be a step slow at times and lacked that aggressive streak which the best big men have. This season he has lost some weight, and gained some muscle and speed. Look for him to be one of the best big men in the Big East.
What Will March Bring?: Losing Stephenson and Vaughn is going to be a blessing in disguise for this team. I expect Gates to make the jump that everyone anticipates, and the addition of Kilpatrick to the backcourt will be big. This is a 20 win team and should be in the Top 7 in the Big East. I expect them to be in the NCAA barring a horrible end of the season collapse.
The Good: Though off-court distractions have seemed to take their toll on Coach Calhoun and the Husky program, UConn will still field a talented team, including potential All-American Kemba Walker.
The Not-So-Good: This is a very young team, with Kemba Walker being the sole player expected to be a major contributor who is not a freshman or sophomore. There will be a lot of growing pains, though the Huskies are lucky to have the experience of
The Question Mark: This is the same issue that we discussed with
What Will March Bring?: As I said, there is a lot of talent, but it is young and I think it would be best to temper expectations. They have enough here for a 20-22 win team, though the Big East season may be a tad rough for them. Most likely a 8-10th place finish and on the outside of the Tournament this season. If
The Good: Another team hit hard by graduation and early defections, DePaul is looking to rebuild under new coach Oliver Purnell. Will Walker and Mac Koshwal accounted for almost half of the team’s points last year, but look for Purnell to install a more up-tempo system to take advantage of the team’s athleticism. The players to watch from this year’s team are all freshmen – Moses Morgan, Cleveland Melvin, and Brandon Young. Morgan is a scorer, does a great job getting to the basket, has a decent mid-range game, and is active on the boards. He will need to improve his defense, and work hard on adding muscle, but he has the ability to be the Blue Demons’ top scorer right away. Young has good size for a point guard at 6’3, does a good job running a half-court offense and can push the ball in transition. He needs to work on cutting down his mistakes, especially his tendency to be a bit slow in his decision-making. Defensively, he does a good job, though his effort can be inconsistent. Melvin is a long, athletic forward, who plays much better at this stage with his back to the basket, though his long-term future will probably be on the perimeter. Watch for him to slowly transition to working on the perimeter as Purnell brings in bigger players to fill the front line positions. Of the returnees, Mike Stovall and Eric Wallace both have the ability to score in a variety of ways and will provide leadership under the new coach.
The Not-So-Good: The loss of Koshwal is going to be tough, especially as he was starting o come into his own as a player. Krys Faber played decently in limited time last season, but he will need to make a big leap this year to provide some semblance of a post game for the Blue Demons. Perimeter shooting, especially from 18 feet out hampered DePaul last season and unless one of the young players comes out of the gate firing this season, it will continue to be a sore spot. Defensively, Purnell prefers to pressure the ball, though he may not have the athletes to play defense the way he wants. Jeremiah Kelly at the point guard position plays well in spurts, though is inconsistent on both sides of the ball.
The Question Mark: How will the players from the previous regime adjust to Coach Purnell’s no-nonsense approach? Purnell has a reputation from making a lot out of little talent-wise, and that is owed to his approach mixing discipline and effort. While Jerry Wainwright was a good coach, he often lost his players, and brought in guys who weren’t exactly the best fit. One thing is for sure, if the holdovers don’t give Purnell what he wants, he will not hesitate to keep them off the court.
What Will March Bring?: I would be stunned in the Blue Demons don’t finish 15th or 16th in the Big East, though they should be able to break the 10 win mark this season. 12-14 wins overall seems like the ceiling for this group.
The Good: The Hoyas’ season came to a shocking end in March with a First Round NCAA loss to
The Question Mark: How efficient will the
What Will March Bring?: This team is most likely in the Top 5 in the Big East, and if the defense holds, could finish 1 or 2. Look for them to get over last year’s first round exit, and win a game or two in the NCAA Tournament. Freeman and Wright are both potential draft picks next season – Freeman as early as the late first round and Wright in the mid to late second. Vaughn should also get a few looks in NBA training camps for his strength in the post.
The Good: First, Coach Rick Pitino’s personal scandal may be behind him at this point and should not have much of an effect on this year’s team. While he lost team leader Edgar Sosa and enigmatic Samardo Samuels, he has a solid group of athletes who should be able to play the full-court style Pitino prefers. Returning in the frontcourt are two players who have yet to live up to their potential – Jared Swopshire and Terrence Jennings. Swopshire has great length and showed a good ability to get after rebounds in spurts. He runs the court well, though his shot is very inconsistent and he often shies away from contact.
The Not-So-Good: Shooting was a problem last season, and unless some players made some improvements over the summer, it could be rough again. Outside of Kuric and Mike Marra, there isn’t much in terms of long-distance shooters who can stretch the court. Defensively, the team had way too many lapses to play the style of ball that Coach Pitino wants. It will be a back-to-basics approach with this group, even if it means sacrificing some of the pace.
The Question Mark: Is there anyone in this group who will take their game to the next level this season?
What Will March Bring?: It is going to be a tough season for Coach Pitino and it will take its toll. 15 or 16 wins would be about right for this group and certainly in that 10-13 range in the Big East.
The Good: Team leader Lazar Hayward has moved on to the NBA, but Buzz Williams will still have a very competitive team this season. Darius Johnson-Odom will be the go-to guy this season, and last year he showed a good ability to score in bunches. He does a good job getting into the lane with an excellent first step, and was almost a 50% 3pt shooter last season. The main concern will be seeing how he handles being the leader of this team after a few seasons with
The Not-So-Good: This a solid team top to bottom, but the lack of size in the middle could be a problem. It will be important for the perimeter defense to step up and pressure the ball, or for Williams to find creative ways to clog the middle. The lack of a solid big man will also make perimeter scoring more important, so shot selection and consistency will need to be improved.
The Question Mark: How will Johnson-Odom handle leadership of the Golden Eagles? The one key to the last few
What Will March Bring?: Most likely a Top 5 or 6 Big East Team – probably 22-25 wins and a solid NCAA seed.
The Good: With Luke Harangody finally of to the NBA, Mike Brey will rely on Tim Abromaitis and Ben Hansbrough to guide the Irish back to the NCAA Tournament next March. Abromaitis is an excellent shooter, but will need to be a much bigger force on the boards to help alleviate the loss of Harangody. Hopefully he has added some muscle in the off-season. Hansbrough plays the game like his brother, taking no possessions off and doing whatever the team needs to win. While he doesn’t to any one thing very well, he is good at a lot of little things. Unless someone steps up to be a post presence, Hansbrough may need to get used to shooting with a hand in his face. He does have a quick release and good range, so he may be able to help stretch defenses, though I would expect him to spend more time running the offense. Tyrone Nash will start the season as the main big man though he is undersized and will need to spend most of his energy guarding bigger and stronger players. Freshman shooting guard Jerian Grant goes strong to the hoop, though he needs to add some muscle to his frame to be able to finish in the Big East. He can help push the ball in transition, and plays tough defense out on the wings.
The Not-So-Good: The Irish roster looks familiar with undersized big men playing in the post, big wings who can shoot the ball and solid, but unspectacular, point guard play. Nash, Tom Knight and Carelton Scott will need to work the boards as hard as Harangody did to keep the Irish in games, especially if the long ball isn’t falling. This is also not the most athletic group in the conference, and can be severely outmanned against up-tempo squads. Coach Brey will need to scheme ways to get his shooters open looks consistently.
The Question Mark: Who will pick up Harangody’s production in points and rebounds? This is a tough question, and in the immediate future, it may take 3 or 4 guys to put up his same numbers. Even more a challenge is the instimidation factor that Harangody gave the Irish, with teams knowing he will be going hard after every rebound on both ends of the floor. Right now, there doesn’t look to be a player with that potential.
What Will March Bring?: The Irish will be hard pressed to break the Top 8 in the conference this season, and will likely not be heading to the NCAA Tournament. As with all ND shooters, Abromaitis will most likely get a look from some NBA teams looking for big men who can shoot from 3.
The Good: No coach gets more out of his players than Jamie Dixon. Expect this season to be no different. Led by Ashton Gibbs, the Panthers will battle every night against any team. Gibbs exploded on the Big East scene last season, averaging almost 16 points a game, up from 4 the year before. He has good range on his jumper, an effective first step, and is not afraid to take a hit on his way to the basket. Gilbert Brown will also be back to provide scoring and rebounding support. Brown has the ability to hit the perimeter jumper and is very effective grabbing a scoring off of offensive rebounds. He is very athletic and uses it well on the defensive end. Dante Taylor should have a breakout sophomore season to become one of the better big men in the Big East. He has a wide body, good footwork, and makes quick, powerful moves in the post. On defense, I would like to see him be more aggressive, especially contesting shots. The guy who is the glue to the Pitt team, and easily their most valuable player, is Brad Wanamaker. A tough shooting guard with the ability to hit from long and mid-range, Wanamaker is also very good defender, rebounder, and has excellent court-vision. Gary McGhee always seems to save his best games for big occasions and should be a force on the boards again this season. A talented group of hard-playing freshmen should provide excellent depth for Coach Dixon. Wings JJ Moore and Cameron Wright, and point guard Isaiah Epps will all gain valuable minutes this season and will be prepared to step up when they need to.
The Question Mark: There aren’t many on this team, and the season will come down to how
What Will March Bring?: It will be a major surprise if Pitt doesn’t finish in the Top 2 or 3 in the Big East, and grab a top 1 or 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament.
That wraps up Part 1 of the Big East preview. Make sure to check back tomorrow for Part II – with looks at Providence, Rutgers, St Johns, Seton Hall, South Florida, Syracuse, Villanova and West Virginia. As always, leave your comments, feel free to contact me at
The NBA Draft Blog Preview of the SEC continues with Part II and a look at some teams that have attracted a lot of attention this off-season.
If you missed Part I (
The Good: Trent Johnson enters his third year at the helm of LSU and is looking to rebound from last season’s misstep. Leading scorers Tasmin Mitchell and Bo Spencer are gone, but a solid group of returnees combined with a fantastic freshmen class will give fans a reason to be optimistic. Junior forward Storm Warren provides toughness and leadership in the frontcourt.
The Not-So-Good: This team was plagued by horrendous shooting last season, and the freshmen will need to step up immediately to improve this. Post play, outside of
The Question Mark: I wanted to make this about 7’2 walk-on band member Andrew Del Piero, but I am still not sure what is going on here. Instead, the major question for me is does it make sense for Johnson to turn the team over to the freshmen from the get go? They may be the 4 most talented players on the team, outside of Warren, and combined with Iowa State transfer Justin Hamilton and 2011 freshman Johnny O’Bryant, the Tigers will be able to make a major move in the SEC. These 4 freshmen receiving the bulk of the minutes could prove to be huge next year and beyond.
What Will March Bring?: This team is still a work in progress and I don’t think you can expect much more than last season’s 11 wins. I think 14 may be the ceiling, but watch for the Tigers to continue to improve.
The Good: Coach Andy Kennedy will be missing some key players from last season’s team, but he still has some pieces in place to make things difficult for fellow SEC teams. All-SEC guard Chris Warren is back and will lead the way for the Rebels.
The Not-So-Good: Replacing Terrico White, Eniel Polynice and Murphy Holloway is a tough task, especially because White and Polynice both has the ability to run the offense which let Warren focus more on scoring. Without these proven options around him, there is a possibility that
The Question Mark: What will be the impact of
What Will March Bring?: I think it will be tough to match last season’s 24 wins. I am thinking 18-20 is the ceiling for this group, and they could be a solid bubble team if they pick up an upset or two in the SEC.
The Good: When Coach Rick Stansbury will have his full team, the Bulldogs have the potential to be a dangerous squad in the SEC. It will start with the long-awaited debut of Renardo Sidney, who sat out last season with eligibility issues.
The Not-So-Good: Obviously, there is a going to be some difficulty integrating newcomers after the season starts.
The Question Mark: Who will run the team in Bost’s absence? Junior college transfer Brian Bryant is a good scorer, though it is yet to be seen how he handles running the offense. Sophomores Charles Parker and Baxter Price showed little last season, but may need to step up this season, especially on the defensive end. Whoever it is, it will be tough to replace Bost’s skill-set and experience.
What Will March Bring?: This will definitely be a tale of two seasons – with Bost and without. With him, this is one of the Top 4 teams in the SEC, and for Stansbury’s sake, let’s hope his re-emergence goes smoothly. If it does, they can win 20-23 games and pick up a 4-6 seed in the NCAA Tournament. If
The Good: Things will look a little different for Darrin Horn’s Gamecocks this season with the loss of leading scorers Devan Downey and Dominique Archie, but Horn has done a great job attracting talent to South Carolina and there should be little drop off in terms of wins over the next few seasons. Two starters return from last season – forwards Sam Muldrow and Lakeem Jackson. Muldrow is a strong defender and rebounder, who also has the ability to score in traffic. He showed that he could step outside the lane and hit the mid-range jumper, though he needs to become more consistent.
The Not-So-Good: Replacing your 4 leasing scorers is always a tough task, especially a prolific leader in
The Question Mark: Where will the scoring come from? This is a group that is going to need to create easy baskets, especially off of turnovers and in transition. The team is athletic enough to force the tempo, though whether they are skilled enough is yet to be seen. Muldrow and Jackson will need to carry the team as much as possible early on, especially while the freshmen get their bearings.
What Will March Bring?: This group is probably no better than a .500 team this season, though the next few years should see them back above 20 wins.
The Good: The Volunteers overcame a tumultuous early part of the season to come within 2 points of making the Final Four. Now they will need to overcome the loss of team leaders Wayne Chism and J.P. Prince to find similar success this season. The team leader this season will undoubtedly be Scotty Hopson. Hopson, a junior shooting guard, has great size, long arms, and great leaping ability. He has the ability to shoot from three and has a nice first step to take his man off the dribble. One area where he needs to improve is working without the ball, especially coming clean off of screens. Defensively, he is an above average defender who uses his long arms well to disrupt passing lanes. I also expect big things out of Brian Williams this season. The senior is a massive presence in the middle and has improved steadily since coming to
The Not-So-Good: The loss of Chism is big, as he provided major help to Williams on the boards, as well as being a team leader. The depth in the post is lacking, with the only real depth behind Williams is Renaldo Woolridge, who is talented but lacks the muscle of Williams.
The Question Mark: The major question here is the status of Coach Bruce Pearl, who has admitted to NCAA violations and is currently coaching without a contract. This is the kind of distraction that doesn’t bode well for the Volunteers, as questions will be popping up continuously through the season, no matter how well they play. Hopefully, everything is out and on the table, and the team can try to move on, but if one more indiscretion comes out, this season is over, as well as
What Will March Bring?: There is talent here, though the internal distractions could prove to be too much. My best guess is 18-20 wins, and a team left on the bubble at Tournament time. Hopson has NBA potential, and he can do a lot to bolster his stock this season, as can Williams.
The Good: AJ Ogilvie and Jermaine Beal are gone from last year’s NCAA tournament team, but Coach Kevin Stallings has plenty of talent to keep the Commodores on the winning track. Jeff Taylor will have his chance to shine. A small forward with the ability to hit from mid-range and take the ball strong to the hoop,
The Not-So-Good: Olgivie was a skilled big man and replacing him will be a tough task. It will fall on Festus Ezeli and freshman Josh Henderson to make up for his production.
The Question Mark:
What Will March Bring?: Last season’s 24 wins may be stretch, but I can easily see 20 and another NCAA Tournament bid, especially if they run through their non-conference schedule.
That wraps up the SEC preview. Make sure to check back tomorrow for Part I of the Big East Preview. As always, leave your comments, feel free to contact me at