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College Bball Preseason Elite 8

November 21, 2008

Without further ado, here's my top 8 of the preseason. I try not to let biases, both negative and postive seep through when talking about UNC and Duke.

8. Memphis (38-2)
Last Year: Lost in the Championship Game
Coach: John Calipari
Stud: Tyreke Evans
Glue:Robert Dozier
Schedule: Georgetown,Syracuse,Tennessee, Xavier or Virginia Tech

Hey John Callipari, do you still think free throw shooting isn't important? Last year Callipari said in an interview that he can think of 25 things more important in a player than free throw shooting ability. Well guess what bit his team in the ass more than anything. This year, they're reloading with a good chunk of the national runner-up returning. They lost Derrick Rose, Chris Douglas-Roberts, and Joey Dorsey to the NBA. They brought in highly touted swing man Tyreke Evans as the next Rose style one and done. Evans is a wing who can get his own shot and score, yet he averaged 8 assists a game as a high school senior. Not bad for someone who is 6'8. The top returnees include wing Antonio Anderson, 4 man Robert Dozier, guards Doneal Mack and Willie Kemp, and big Shawn Taggart. I expect Taggart to make a bigger impact this year. He is a 2nd year transfer who is long and athletic. Wesley Witherspoon is another of many tremendous athletes who will come in right away and get heavy minutes. The CUSA schedule should be relatively easy, but the Tigers will get tested with games against Georgetown, Syracuse, Tennessee, and Xavier. We'll see if Callipari changes his philosophy on free throws, and also how Memphis can attempt to replace what they lost. Chances are they won't slip much, and if Evans is really special, look for them to maybe make a final 4 run.

7. Duke (28-6)
Last Year: lost in the 2nd round
Stud: Gerald Henderson
Glue: Jon Scheyer
Coach: Mike Krzyzewski
Schedule: Purdue, Xavier, Davidson, ACC

I will try and not let my Duke hatred infiltrate this paragraph. (Deep breath, ok I'm good). The Blue Devils haven't had much March success with this group. They do, as always have a lot of talent and will always battle and play hard. It starts with Gerald Henderson. Henderson is a disgusting athlete who can jump out of the gym. He does a lot of thinks well. If he can hit anything consistent from outside, then watch out. Jon Scheyer is probably the MVP of this team. He was thought of as just a scorer coming out of Illinois in high school, but he is a pretty good ballhandler and passer who also plays good D. The rest of the key players include Kyle Singler, Nolan Smith, Greg Paulus, Lance Thomas, and Brian Zoubek. Thomas and Zoubek need to give Duke a post presence, while Paulus and Smith need to not turn the ball over and make open j's. Singler could be great, even though he's one of the goofiest looking people in college basketball. Duke could give Carolina a run, though I doubt it. They get tested with Purdue, Xavier, and Davidson, but should clean up in a pretty weak ACC. This should be an elite 8 team at a minimum.

6. UCONN (24-9)
Last Year: lost in the 1st round
Coach: Jim Calhoun
Stud: Hasheem Thabeet
Glue: Jeff Adrien
Schedule: Gonzaga, (Davidson, or Miami in the Paradise Jam)Big East

Eveyone is sweating UCONN hardcore this preseason. I'm still not completely sold after an early exit last March. Hasheem Thabeet has apparently found his offensive game over the summer, as he has started the season off being unstoppable. He is complemented by veterans like Jeff Adrien inside, and A.J.Price, Craig Austrie, and Jerome Dyson on the perimeter. Adrien does all the dirty work, while the others spread the floor with their shooting. Price needs to be fully healed from an ACL tear, but frosh Kemba Walker looks as though he can step in and spell him if needed. I don't see too many holes with this team. They look like they could be a legitimate Final 4 contender if they stay healthy. I feel like with the Big East being as difficult as it is, they could take their lumps and lose their confidence a little bit. Their non-conference matchups include Davidson, Gonzaga, and maybe Miami (Fla). Calhoun has been there before even if his players haven't, so look for anything in the Sweet 16 to Final 4 range.

5. Michigan St. (27-9)
Last Year: lost in the sweet 16
Coach: Tom Izzo
Stud: Raymar Morgan
Glue: Goran Suton
Schedule: UNC, Texas,(Gonzaga, or Georgetown) Big 10

Apparently losing Drew Neitzel will help this team. I'm not necessarily sold on this notion, but it's what I've been hearing. Apparently it's going to open things up for Kalin Lucas, but I don't know. I do know they have a good nucleus back, and that the Big 10 outside of Purdue and Wisconsin isn't that strong. The leading returnee is Junior Raymar Morgan. He is the 2nd returing leading scorer in the Big 10, and has pro potential. Lucas will run and run and run, as he may be the quickest point guard Izzo has had (Mateen Cleaves takes umbrage). Others in the mix include Suton, who does everything except consistently score, Chris Allen, Durell Summers, and Frosh Delvon Roe, who can spell Morgan. Senior Travis Walton can't shoot, but he can take over the point for Lucas if needed. Chances are, this team will rebound and defend at a high level with Izzo on the bench. They'll get tested with matchups against the Tar Heels in the Big 10-ACC challenge, and Texas. A Big 10 championship and at least an elite 8 appearance seems to be on the Horizon for Sparty.

4. Texas (31-7)
Last Year: Lost in the Elite 8
Coach: Rick Barnes
Stud: Daimon James
Glue: A.J.Abrams
Schedule: UCLA, Michigan St., Wisconsin,Villanova, (UNC or Notre Dame in Maui), Big 12

Imagine what could have been. If the Longhorns still had Kevin Durant and D.J. Augustin, they would have to have been the prohibitive favorite to win it all. They don't, but they're still going to be pretty good regardless. Daimon James is going to blow up this year. He's stong as a bull and has the athleticism to match. A.J. Abrams is in the Boobie Gibson mold, expect I think he's a better and more consistent shooter. And with Justin Mason, Connor Atchley, Gary Johnson, and Dexter Pittman, they have a bunch of players who have been around the program and bring everything a championship ballclub needs. Hopefully Barnes will get out of the way and let them play. He's not necessarily the best X's and O's guy in the game. The schedule is murderous, but they should be able to hang with anybody. I hope Durrant is having fun losing 150 games in Oklahoma City.

3. UCLA ( 35-4)
Last Year: Lost in the Final 4
Coach:Ben Howland
Stud: Darren Collison
Glue: Josh Shipp
Schedule: Texas, Notre Dame,Southern Illinois, Pac-10

I'm going to keep the Bruins here even though they've already lost a game. They are mixing in an older nucleus with some youngsters, so it may take some time to jell. They've been extremely successful in making the Final 4 the last three seasons. Howland is a tremendous defensive coach, who has brought a heavy defensive mindset out to the coast. Darren Collison may be the best point in the country not named Ty Lawson. His mother was a Jamaican sprinter, and Collison is lightning with the ball in his hands. With Josh Shipp on the wing, and Alfred Aboya inside, they have the senior leadership that have been through the wars before. In Freshman Jrue Holliday and Drew Gordon, they can more than compensate for the premature losses of Russell Westbrook, Kevin Love, and Luc Mbah'a'Moute. Texas and Notre Dame will be the challenges of the non-conference slate, with the Pac-10 being there's for the taking unless something crazy happens. They have a really good chance to make it four years in a row on the final weekend.

2.Louisville ( 27-9)
Last Year: lost in the Elite 8
Coach: Rick Pitino
Stud: Earl Clark
Glue: Terrence Williams
Schedule: UNLV,Kentucky, Big East

Can Sanardo Samuels matchup with Luke Harangody, and Hasheen Thabeet in his rookie season? If the answer to that question can be answered with an affirmitve, then Louisville will be great. Samuels adds a low post presence that could jell with everything else and make the Cardinals almost impossible to beat. They're simply loaded everywhere else. Earl Clark and Terrence Williams are game changers who, if they show more consistency, can combine with Samuels to be the best frontcourt in the nation. Add to that the experience of guards like Edgar Sosa, Jerry Smith, Preston Knowles, and Andre McGee, and the Cardinals will clearly be able to play with anybody. If Samuels takes his lumps inside, then Louisville might struggle like they did last year in stretches. The non-conference portion of the slate is easy, especially with Kentucky looking like doo-doo against Carolina. The Big East will be the test, and if Samuels plays and dominates, Louisville can win the National Championship.

1. UNC ( 36-3)
Last Year: Lost in the Final 4
Coach: Roy Williams
Stud: Tyler Hansborough
Glue: Wayne Ellington
Schedule: Michigan St, Kentucky, (Notre Dame or Texas in Maui) ACC

When Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington, and Danny Green all decided to come back to school, all of Chapel Hill circled their calendars for the first Monday in April. They can and should cut the nets down. Every contributor from last year is back, along with the return of Bobby Frasor and the addition of Richmond's own Ed Davis and point guard Larry Drew, who should be more than capable as a backup for Lawson. They did lose Tyler Zeller for the year, but Deon Thompson looks like he's going to have a break out season. Hansborough needs to make sure he's healthy and continue to do what he does inside, opening everything up for Lawson's driving ability and Ellington and Green's outside shooting. Simply put, if Carolina doesn't win it all it will be a disappointment. Same as the Cubs this year (gulp).


Langston said...

I don't know if its just me, but it seems like a lot of Duke guys play about 7 years in college. I am sure it has to do with starting as freshman, but it feels like Paulus has been there since the Clinton administration.

November 22, 2008 at 12:50 PM
Teach said...

Most Duke fans would say the same thing about Psycho T. It's got to be weird though for Paulus to have started as a freshman but will now be coming off the bench. I just hope he gets minutes in crunch time still. I love watching him pick up his dribble in traffic.

I cried when Zeller went down, mainly because the same play that took him out for the season showed just how athletic he is for a 7 footer.

November 23, 2008 at 1:05 PM

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