The NCAA basketball tournament was born March 17, 1939, and Dick Vitale belted out his first cry 84 days later. Do the math. Dick Vitale, who has a blast throwing himself into the middle of college basketball crowds, is 75. I guess I never thought about his age, but that just blew me away when I read that recently.
At the age of 40, Vitale was on the call for ESPN's first college basketball game, Dec. 5, 1979, when De Paul defeated Wisconsin, 90-77, and he hasn't stopped since, except to take a break for a couple of months after undergoing vocal-cord surgery seven years ago today.
Vitale's had a blast doing games, but his best work has come when he uses his fame to help causes in much the same way his look-alike, actor Brad Pitt, has. Vitale's passion, of course, is raising funds to battling cancer. He's relentless in trying to find ways to help. His latest effort is a fun book, "It's Awesome, Baby!" written with Dick Weiss and Joan Williamson. Proceeds go to cancer research.
Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander is quoted in the book about his plans: "One-and-done and then come back and get my degree."
Vitale also writes about Kansas coach Bill Self in a chapter titled, "Future Hall of Famers," and about ex-KU coach Larry Brown in the chapter, "Senior Citizens Thriving."
Nobody has to tell Vitale that the secret to life is living it up. He's a great lover of life, which might have something to do with why he's so moved by premature deaths caused by cancer. Two words best sum up Dick Vitale: Kind man.
Kansas tends to play either like a top five team or an unranked one, but knows how to pull out games at the end. All of that adds up to the nation's Associated Press college basketball poll voters leaving the Jayhawks at No. 10 for the second week in a row.
The Jayhawks play the toughest schedule in the country and might have to play it all with one scholarship point guard on the roster, unless Devonte Graham can make it back from a severe case of turf toe of the big toe. He's sidelined anywhere from four weeks to the rest of the season.
The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Dec. 14, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:
My AP top 25 ballot:
Record Pts Prv
- Kentucky (65) 11-0 1,625 1
- Duke 8-0 1,545 2
- Arizona 10-0 1,505 3
- Louisville 9-0 1,349 4
- Wisconsin 10-1 1,331 5
- Virginia 9-0 1,294 6
- Villanova 10-0 1,215 7
- Gonzaga 9-1 1,175 9
- Texas 8-1 1,154 8
- Kansas 8-1 1,102 10
- Wichita St. 7-1 959 11
- Ohio St. 8-1 838 12
- Iowa St. 8-1 772 14
- Utah 7-2 670 13
- Oklahoma 6-2 647 16
- Washington 8-0 598 17
- Maryland 10-1 512 19
- Miami 9-1 426 20
- San Diego St. 7-2 424 18
- St. John's 8-1 353 24
- Notre Dame 10-1 351 25
- West Virginia 9-1 333 22
- Butler 8-2 259 15
- North Carolina 6-3 122 21
- Michigan St. 7-3 116 _
Others receiving votes: Baylor 97, TCU 80, Colorado St. 75, N. Iowa 65, Georgetown 41, California 37, Arkansas 19, Seton Hall 14, VCU 6, LSU 4, Oklahoma St. 4, Old Dominion 4, Penn St. 3, Davidson 1.
1 - Kentucky: Alex Poythress would have been a star on many teams but for Kentucky he was a glue guy who did a little bit of everything. Defended extremely well, blocked shots, ran the floor hard in both directions, rebounded well for a small forward, shot free throws at an .857 clip. Now he’s gone for the season, KO’d by a knee injury. No other team could handle losing a starter as well as Kentucky. Still, Poythress will be missed.
2 - Duke: Semi Ojeleye, around whom everything was built at Ottawa High, where he was encouraged to shoot first pretty much whenever he touched it, never smoothly made the transition to a star-studded roster. He averaged three points and 2.3 rebounds in six games for the Blue Devils (8-0). The 6-foot-8, 230 pound forward armed with a soft, long-range shooting touch, has decided to transfer. In 63 minutes this season, Ojeleye made 4 of 16 three-pointers, 1 of 2 two-pointers, had 14 rebounds, three steals and 11 personal fouls.
3 - Arizona: It hasn’t taken 6-7, 245-pound freshman Stanley Johnson long to figure out how to fit into talented team, what distinguishes a good team from a bad one and just about everything else that troubles new college basketball players. In the past seven games, Johnson’s averaging 15.3 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.1 steals and shooting 50 percent from three. Johnson stung Michigan for 17 points, seven boards and three assists in an impressive 27-point trouncing of reeling Michigan.
4 - Virginia: Ranked third-most efficient defense in nation and 10th in offensive efficiency. Opponents shoot just .345 from inside the three-point arc, third-best in nation, per kenpom.com.
5 - Wisconsin: Bo Ryan’s swing offense results in high-percentage shots from inside and open ones from long range, but he’s an even better defensive coach. Five foes have scored 45 or fewer points. ... Badgers are a better three-point shooters than they have shown (.347) so far.
6 - Louisville: After Terry Rozier burned Indiana for a career-high 26 points in a 20-point victory, Hoosiers coach Tom Crean called Rozier, “one of the premier guards in the country.” Cardinals coach Rick Pitino called Montrezl Harrell (21 points, 11 rebounds) “the best player in the nation.” At the very least, Harrell is trending in that direction with five consecutive double-doubles a season double-double (17 points, 10.4 rebounds) average.
7 - Texas: Defensive effective field-goal percentage (1.5 credits for three-pointers made) of .343 best in the nation, per kenpom.com. Foes shooting .325 from two, .258 from three.
8 - Gonzaga: Big Zags never trailed in 87-74 victory at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion and showed they shoot well playing at fast pace (.585 overall, .474 from three, .842 from line). Kentucky transfer Kyle Wiltjer averaging 20 points in past six games.
9 - Villanova: Bucknell and Michigan only teams to come within single figures of undefeated Wildcats. Up next: Syracuse comes to Philly on Saturday.
10 - Kansas: Frank Mason averaging more than 35 minutes in past five games. Fatigue not getting in way of improved shooting. Shot .327 from three and .662 from line last season, .500 from three, .879 from line this season.
11 - Wichita State: Ron Baker attempted 11 field goals, made just one free throw and scored 22 points in home-court victory against previously undefeated Seton Hall. Shockers remain a pain-in-the neck team to play, as illustrated by 24-5 advantage in points off turnovers in that game.
12 - Iowa State: Abdel Nader, Cyclones 6-6, 230-pound forward and Northern Illinois transfer, delivered monster contribution off bench in 15-point road victory at Iowa. Totaled 19 points, six rebounds and two blocked shots. He made 4 of 6 three-pointers and teammate Naz Long made 5 of 9. Coach Fred Hoiberg does an amazing job of finding transfers and getting them to quickly learn NBA system.
13 - Oklahoma: All six Sooners victories by double figures. UCLA and Butler among the victims.
14 - Ohio State: Buckeyes have shot at first victory against ranked opponent when they face North Carolina in the United Center in Chicago in the first game of a doubleheader known as the CBS Sports Classic. UCLA and Kentucky play in the second game.
15 - Utah: Not many 6-5 players have the quickness of Delon Wright, who in 39 minutes vs. Kansas made 9 of 13 shots and delivered five rebounds, four assists, four steals and 23 points.
16 - Washington: Huskies have opportunity to move up rankings Saturday if they can figure out how to beat Oklahoma in Coaches vs. Cancer game in Las Vegas.
17 - Maryland: Coach Mark Turgeon will try to improve to 2-0 vs. Big 12 teams Sunday at Oklahoma State. Cowboys could vault into rankings with a victory.
18 - St. John’s: Nigerian Chris Obekpa, a 6-10, 240-pound center, is offensively challenged but plays a huge part in Johnnies ranking as ninth-most efficient defense in the nation. He averages 3.7 blocks per game and enables Johnnies guards to apply pressure, knowing he’s waiting by the rim if guards blow by their men.
19 - Michigan State: Spartans haven’t defeated a ranked opponent and won’t face another until opening Big Ten play vs. Maryland, if the Terps are still ranked Dec. 30.
20 - North Carolina: Tar Heels hung tough at Kentucky in 14-point loss and won second half buy a point. Theo Pinson’s three-pointer with 10:23 left drew Heels within nine with 10:23 left, but Wildcats quickly pushed it back to double figures and kept it there. Moral victory for UNC? Not quite, but not a discouraging effort either. “I thought they dictated what we did on the offensive end with their athleticism, quickness, strength and size,” UNC coach Roy Williams said afterward. That gives Roy’s team something in common with every other Kentucky opponent.
21 - Notre Dame: Fighting Irish play a soft non-conference schedule, too soft to properly prepare them for the rigorous ACC. Best long-range play for Domers: Join the Big 12 with BYU.
22 - Baylor: Add the Bears to the list of schools that have the potential to give KU problems in the paint. If Johnathan Motley’s breakout performance in a victory against a much improved Texas A&M squad gives him confidence he can use to fuel him to more consistent performances, look out. Motley, a 6-9, 230-pound red-shirt freshman from Houston, dominated the Aggies with 22 points and 11 rebounds in 23 minutes. He made 9 of 16 field goals. That’s 22 more points than Motley delivered in a combined 27 minutes vs. Texas Southern and Vanderbilt. Motley, ranked No. 110 by Rivals in the Class of 2013, added more than 20 pounds during his red-shirt season. His wingspan has been measured at 7-3. He and wide-body Rico Gathers complement each other well when Motley is on his game.
23 - San Diego State: Struggling Aztecs had to outscore so-so Long Beach State team 19-10 in the closing minutes just to pull out a one-point victory at home.
24 - Miami, Fla.: Kansas State transfer Angel Rodriguez led Hurricanes with 17 points in 70-39 victory vs. Savannah State. K-State could have used Rodriguez six days later against Savannah, which was within single figures with inside eight minutes remaining before Wildcats pulled away for 20-point victory.
25 - California: Bears have one loss, but haven’t played much of a schedule, other than a 14-point victory vs. Syracuse and a 16-point loss to Texas.
Facing a tough week with a Wednesday road game at Georgetown and a Saturday game at Sprint Center against No. 13, the Jayhawks start the week as the No. 10 team in the Associated Press college basketball poll released Monday. Kansas moved up one spot from last week.
The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Dec. 7, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week’s ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Kentucky (64) 9-0 1,600 1
- Duke 8-0 1,518 4
- Arizona 8-0 1,486 3
- Louisville 7-0 1,319 5
- Wisconsin 8-1 1,316 2
- Virginia 9-0 1,285 7
- Villanova 8-0 1,173 10
- Texas 7-1 1,155 6
- Gonzaga 7-1 1,145 9
- Kansas 6-1 1,083 11
- Wichita St. 5-1 929 8
- Ohio St. 6-1 808 14
- Utah 6-1 717 25
- Iowa St. 5-1 668 20
- Butler 7-1 593 23
- Oklahoma 5-2 557 22
- Washington 7-0 428 _
- San Diego St. 6-2 390 13
- Maryland 8-1 370 21
- Miami 8-1 359 15
- North Carolina 6-2 350 12
- West Virginia 8-1 313 16
- N. Iowa 8-0 232 _
- St. John’s 6-1 211 _
- Notre Dame 8-1 200 _
Others receiving votes: Michigan St. 120, Illinois 91, Georgetown 62, Iowa 60, Seton Hall 57, Baylor 49, TCU 45, Colorado St. 28, Arkansas 22, California 19, Michigan 14, Creighton 7, VCU 6, LSU 5, Indiana 3, NC State 3, Old Dominion 2, Dayton 1, Yale 1.
My top 25 ballot:
1 - Kentucky: The thoroughbred owners weren’t angry yet when the Texas game was 26-26 at the half. Maybe a little nervous, but fury was on one knee in the on-deck circle. Then the best defensive team in college basketball in years showed its fangs and in the first 8:59 of the second half, the Wildcats outscored the Longhorns, 18-2.
2 - Duke: Finally, the voters realize that the Blue Devils have been the second-best team in the nation all season. It took them shooting .652 from the field and .583 from three in a 10-point victory vs. Wisconsin for everyone to see what should have been obvious. Hands off my back and back on the keyboard.
3 - Virginia: Since the start of conference play last season, the Cavaliers are 30-3. Tony Bennett has brought the Virginia program from rags to riches in the ACC. Bennett doesn’t draw the attention of more established ACC peers such as Coach K, Rick Pitino, Roy Williams and Jim Boeheim, but that’s OK. he doesn’t mind being the stranger in paradise.
4 - Arizona: Brandon Ashley outscored Gonzaga, 6-2, in the final 3:03 of regulationa nd T.J. McConnell bettered the Zags, 6-3, in overtime.
5 - Wisconsin: Leave Josh Gasser to help elsewhere and he’ll make you regret it. He’s shooting .464 from three.
6 - Louisville: Cards pestered Ohio State into shooting .304 because that’s what they do.
7 - Texas: They tied Kentucky for a half, which isn’t half bad. If Cameron Ridley could find a way to rev his motor a little louder, Longhorns could take a step or two up the rankings.
8 - Gonzaga: Przemek Karnowski, a 7-1, 288-pound center from Pland. Kyle Wiltjer, a 6-10 transfer from Kentucky. Domantas Sabonis, a skilled 6-10 freshman from Lithuania. Kevin Pangos, a drive-and-dish senior point guard who doesn’t turn it over. Are you thinking what I’m thinking? Zags could be team best equipped to upset Kentucky in the tournament. Taking Arizona to overtime in Tucson did nothing to make that seem outlandish.
9 - Kansas: I asked freshman Devonte Graham what the coach’s tone was like at halftime when KU was down 15 points in its comeback victory against Floriday. Graham looked down, smiled and said, “It wasn’t pretty good.” It worked.
10 - Villanova: Schedule about to heat up for Jay Wright’s team. Next seven opponents: Illinois, Temple, Syracuse, NJIT, Butler, Seton Hall, St. John’s. De Paul and Xavier, teams with a combined 51-17 record. Only NJIT has a losing record and it’s coming off a victory at Michigan.
11 - Wichita State: No shame in losing by a point in overtime in the Huntsman Center to a very good Utah squad.
12 - Washington: Huskies defend the whole court well. Opponents shooting .244 on three-point shots, .375 inside the arc.
13 - San Diego State: Aztecs scored school-worst 36 points in 13-point loss at Washington and shot .246 from the field, making int second time they have missed three-quarters of their shots.
14 - Utah: Utes represent a tough out Saturday at Sprint Center. Coming off a one-point, overtime victory vs. visiting Wichita State, Utes will try to make it 2-0 against Kansas schools Saturday in Sprint Center.
15 - Ohio State: Facing intense Louisville defense in nine-point loss will help Buckeyes to get better, especially point guard Shannon Scott (five turnovers, 1 for 7 shooting).
16 - Maryland: Fifth-tallest team in the coungtry, per kenpom.com.
17 - Iowa State: Cyclones three-point shooting percentage in five victories: .402. In one loss: .222.
18 - St. John’s: Senior D’Angelo Harrison leads the team with 18.4 points and ranks second with 8.1 rebounds and shoots .372 from three. Johnnies won by a dozen at Syracuse behind Harrison’s 24 points.
19 - Oklahoma: One of four legitimate contenders for the Big 12 title, the Sooners slammed Missouri, 82-63.
20 - Michigan State: Best three-loss team in the country, but coach Tom Izzo won’t be passing out trophies for that honor.
21 - Butler: One of many Big East teams off to good starts, Bulldogs have defeated North Carolina and Georgetown. Lone loss to Oklahoma.
22 - North Carolina: Brice Johnson totaled 19 points and 17 rebounds in confidence-building rout of East Carolina.
23 - Notre Dame: Fighting Irish backcourt tandem of Jerian Grant and Demetrius Grant combined for 49 points in one-point overtime victory against Michigan State.
24 - Baylor: It’s difficult to see a Baylor basketball jersey without thinking about the coolest NBA draft moment ever. NBA commissioner announced Isaiah Austin as the NBA’s draft choice. Diagnosed with Marfan syndrome, Austin can’t ever play basketball again because of the risk of stressing enlarged arteries in the heart.
25 - Northern Iowa: UNI is 2-0 in overtime games played against schools named after men (Stephen F. Austin and George Mason).
Kansas University won the eight-team Orlando Classic with three victories, but remained No. 11 in the weekly Associated Press college basketball poll.
The AP top 25, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 30, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Kentucky (62) 7-0 1,622 1
- Wisconsin (3) 7-0 1,511 2
- Arizona 6-0 1,488 3
- Duke 7-0 1,475 4
- Louisville 5-0 1,260 6
- Texas 6-0 1,254 7
- Virginia 7-0 1,196 8
- Wichita St. 4-0 1,165 9
- Gonzaga 6-0 1,133 10
- Villanova 6-0 1,075 12
- Kansas 5-1 1,063 11
- North Carolina 5-1 864 5
- San Diego St. 5-1 784 15
- Ohio St. 5-0 759 16
- Miami 7-0 697 17
- West Virginia 7-0 601 21
- Michigan 5-1 454 19
- Arkansas 6-0 438 25
- Michigan St. 5-2 423 20
- Iowa St. 3-1 330 13
- Maryland 7-0 306 _
- Oklahoma 4-2 254 _
- Butler 5-1 222 _
- Illinois 6-0 104 _
- Utah 5-1 88 _
Others receiving votes: N. Iowa 83, UConn 76, Oklahoma St. 69, Providence 56, VCU 52, Syracuse 49, Florida 40, Georgetown 30, Creighton 29, Washington 17, NC State 12, Wyoming 10, California 8, Seton Hall 5, St. John's 5, Nebraska 4, Baylor 3, UCLA 3, Mississippi 2, Old Dominion 2, TCU 2, Notre Dame 1, Saint Mary's (Cal) 1.
My AP top 25 ballot:
1 - Kentucky: Points scored by last three opponents: 28, 44, 38. Next up is Texas on Friday in Lexington.
2 - Duke: Blue Devils shoot .601 from inside the arc, .387 from outside it and turn it over on just 13.6 percent of their possessions, fourth best in the country, per kenpom.com. They also rebound 41.2 percent of their misses. Crazy efficient.
3 - Wisconsin: Duke visits Wednesday night in a possible preview of Final Four teams. Must-watch game in a week packed with many.
4 - Arizona: The Wildcats made 20 of 24 foul shots, compared to 13 of 24 from San Diego State in a two-point game. Practice your free throws.
5 - Virginia: Held Rutgers to 26 points, making it four times in eight games that the Cavaliers have held the other team to 42 or fewer points.
6 - Louisville: Cards shoot just .586 from the line and .240 from three, yet would be a No. 2 seed if brackets came out today. How does that compute? They play incredible defense. Three-point defense (.194) best in nation, two-point defense and turnover rate eighth-best. Opponents are so exhausted trying to figure out how to score on Rick Pitino’s relentless competitors that they can’t even shoot free throws (.533). Maybe that last stat has a little to do with a weak schedule so far.
7 - Texas: If the Longhorns can’t give Kentucky a game Friday, what does that say about their chances of winning the Big 12? Nothing. Absolutely nothing.
8 - Gonzaga: A Saturday trip to Arizona represents chance for Zags to show they belong in the Top 10.
9 - Wichita State: Shockers have nation-best 35-game winning streak in games played in the regular season. Last loss was March 2, 2013 at Creighton.
10 - Kansas: Freshman Cliff Alexander’s averages per 40 minutes played: 20.7 points, 12.9 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, 4.6 personal fouls. He and Perry Ellis playing well together. If Alexander can play with same aggression and curb fouls a little the dynamic duo will be able to team up more often.
11 - Villanova:Defense elevates this team. ‘Nova does such a good job of challenging shots in the paint that opponents make just 38 percent of their two-point attempts.
12 - San Diego State: A check of weather.com shows that temperatures will fluctuate more than usual in san Diego this week. Tuesday’s forecast calls for a high of 68, followed by 69 on Wednesday, 68 on Thursday and back to 69 on Friday.
13 - Ohio State: Freshman D’Angelo Russell leads team in scoring (18.0), ranks second to Shannon Scott in assists (5.4) and steals (1.8) and is second to Marc Loving in three-point percentage (.483). If Russell can score Tuesday night on Louisville, he can score on anybody. Well, maybe not Kentucky.
14 - North Carolina: Lost to Butler, but bounced back with victories against UCLA and Florida to take fifth place in the Bahamas tourney. Kennedy Meeks, the 6-foot-9, 280-pound sophomore, produced 18 points, 13 rebounds against Florida.
15 - Maryland: Coach Mark Turgeon, in the wake of five transfers, said he would reassess his coaching style to stem the trend. Maybe he did, or maybe it’s easier to win without disgruntled players weighing themselves down with selfish motives. Terps are undefeated with victories against Arizona State and Iowa State. Freshman Melo Trimble has played so well that nobody’s crying about the departure of starting point guard Seth Allen.
16 - Michigan: Next up for Wolverines, Syracuse, in Tuesday night game in Ann Arbor. Three-point shooters can burn many zones, but not Jim Boeheim’s 2-3 variety that gets out on shooters. Syracuse almost as good at defending the three (.266) as it is poor at shooting threes (.198).
17 - Iowa State: It doesn’t pay to foul Georges Niang. He’s made 23 of 25 free throws. Maryland kept him off the line (1 for 2) and won by nine points.
18 - Michigan State: Spartans coach Tom Izzo delivered the quote of the week when asked about whether Branden Dawson’s flu could have been a factor in his poor shooting game (4 for 15) against Kansas: “A dead man can make a layup.”
19 - Miami, Fla.: Big 12 transfer update: Sheldon McClellan (Texas) and Angel Rodriguez (Kansas State) combining for 31.6 points, .456 three-point shooting.
20 - West Virginia: Turgeon and Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins won’t be holding mutual pity party over rash of offseason transfers. They rather like the players they’re coaching. Huggins, a 100-percent genuine article, is one of the easier guys for whom to root in the coaching business. Ditto for Turgeon.
21 - Arkansas: Thursday night game at Iowa State a must-watch between contrasting styles. Outcome could say plenty about both teams’ worthiness in top 25.
22 - Utah: Deadly from three (.446), Utes do a great job of drawing fouls. Wichita State pays Wednesday night visit to Huntsman Center to play Utes. Winner of this one will be rewarded for it on Selection Sunday.
23 - Oklahoma State: Cowboys not getting national love yet, in part because of soft schedule, but also because the nation hasn’t caught on to the big impact from 5-11 LSU transfer Anthony Hicks.
24 - UConn: Huskies led Texas until Jonathan Holmes hit a three-pointer from the left baseline with two seconds left for a one-point victory.
25 - Illinois: Rayvonte Rice, a native of Champaign, was not offered a scholarship by his hometown school when Bruce Weber coached there. John Groce, Weber’s replacement at Illinois, had tried to get him to commit to Ohio. Instead, he started for two seasons at Drake and then said yes to Groce the second time. In his second season with the Illini, Rice leads the team with 17.8 points, 7.3 rebounds, 2.8 steals and a .571 three-point shooting percentage. He produced 17 points, seven rebounds and three steals in eight-point victory against Baylor. Big game coming up Tuesday at Miami.
Kansas dropped six spots to No. 11 in the Associated Press college basketball poll in the wake of a 72-40 loss to No. 1 Kentucky, which received 62 of a possible 65 first-place votes. Wisconsin received the other three first-place votes.
The top 25 teams in the AP poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 23, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Kentucky (62) 5-0 1,622 1
- Wisconsin (3) 4-0 1,494 3
- Arizona 3-0 1,491 2
- Duke 5-0 1,474 4
- North Carolina 3-0 1,314 6
- Louisville 3-0 1,219 7
- Texas 4-0 1,187 10
- Virginia 4-0 1,165 9
- Wichita St. 3-0 1,120 11
- Gonzaga 4-0 1,077 13
- Kansas 1-1 981 5
- Villanova 3-0 917 12
- Iowa St. 2-0 828 14
- VCU 3-0 760 15
- San Diego St. 3-0 736 16
- Ohio St. 3-0 557 20
- Miami 5-0 521 _
- Florida 2-1 473 8
- Michigan 3-0 401 24
- Michigan St. 2-1 399 19
- West Virginia 5-0 344 _
- UCLA 4-0 173 _
- Creighton 4-0 148 _
- UConn 3-1 144 17
- Arkansas 3-0 131 _
Others receiving votes: Oklahoma 109, Stanford 80, Providence 63, Utah 38, Minnesota 21, N. Iowa 17, Rhode Island 16, Syracuse 15, Oklahoma St. 14, Georgetown 10, Memphis 10, Baylor 7, Indiana 6, California 5, Illinois 5, Nebraska 5, Cincinnati 4, NC State 4, Wyoming 4, Dayton 3, Maryland 3, UTEP 3, BYU 2, Northeastern 1, Xavier 1.
My AP top 25 ballot:
1 - Kentucky: For Kentucky to reach its outrageous potential, point guard Andrew Harrison and twin Aaron Harrison, a shooting guard, must play 32 minutes a game. The four post players can split time equally and play physically without fear of foul trouble and not have to pace themselves, but the twins are such a dynamic duo, they’ll need to play more eventually. No shortage of extremely athletic candidates can fill the reserve backcourt and small forward minutes.
2 - Duke: Blue Devils took care of Michigan State, Temple and Stanford, all by double figures. Five games in, freshman point guard Tyus Jones has a 5-to-1 assists-to-turnover ratio, the team’s shooting .417 from three, freshman Jahlil Okafor and junior Amile Jefferson combine for 7.4 offensive boards a game and strong perimeter defender Quinn Cook averages 17 points, shoots .486 from three and has a 5.2-to-1 assists-to-turnovers ratio. In other words, the Blue Devils are strong on the perimeter and in the paint.
3 - Arizona: T.J. McConnell, the 6-foot-1 point guard who started his career at Duquesne, not only sets up the big men on a tall roster, he helps them out on the boards. In a 17-point victory against a good UC Irvine team, McConnell totaled 12 points, nine rebounds, four assists and six steals.
4 - Wisconsin: Preseason All-American Frank Kaminsky leads a talented team in scoring (19.3), rebounding (10.3), steals (1.3) and blocks (2.8), is second in assists (2.8) and third in three-point percentage (.444). Duke’s Dec. 3 visit to Kohl Center represents Badgers’ first serious test.
5 - Virginia: Opponents averaging 46.7 points per game against Cavaliers, who hunt shots patiently and hit them at a .415 clip from three-point land.
6 - Texas: Point guard Isaiah Taylor, who had shown signs of a much improved three-point shot to add to his ability to break down a defense, suffered a broken wrist that will cause him to miss most or all of the rest of the nonconference schedule. Barring setbacks, he’s expected to return right about the time Big 12 season arrives. Thanks to experienced junior Javan Felix, the Longhorns are better equipped than most to withstand the stretch without Taylor, but the injured sophomore is a first-team All-Big 12-caliber player.
7 - Gonzaga: At 6-10, Lithuanian freshman Domantas Sabonis, 18, is five inches shorter than his father, Arvydas Sabonis, a 7-3 European basketball legend before joining the Portland Trailblazers at age 31. The son appears to have inherited his father’s feel for the game. Domantas clearly knows a good shot from a bad one. He has an active streak of 14 consecutive field goals made. He leads the Zags in scoring (14), rebounding (7.5), field-goal pct. (.759) and free-throw percentage (.750).
8 - North Carolina: Tar Heels sixth-best offensive rebounding team in the nation, snagging 46.6 percent of their misses, compared to national average of 31.6, per kenpom.com.
9 - Louisville: Shy on shooting — .619 from the line, .219 from three so far — the Cardinals will use smothering defense and other ways to win big.
10 - Wichita State: Shockers play great defense. Memphis committed 24 turnovers in 15-point loss to Wichita State.
11 - Villanova: So far, 32.1 percent of opponents’ possessions have ended in a turnover, the fourth-best figure in the country.
12 - Virginia Commonwealth: Prediction: Tonight’s game vs. Villanova will be decided in the fourth overtime. Both teams shoot a lot of threes, force a lot of turnovers.
13 - Kansas: The statistic that best captured the 32-point loss to Kentucky: The Jayhawks had the exact same number of shots blocked (11) as they made.
14 - Iowa State: Sophomore guard Monte Morris is off to terrific start. He’s averaging 37.5 minutes and 16.5 points and is shooting .647 overall and .667 from three.
15 - San Diego State: Steve Fisher looks to have one of the nation’s top defensive teams, which is a good thing because the Aztecs aren’t the greatest collection of shooters. In 53-49 victory against Utah, Aztecs shot just .327.
16 - Ohio State: Super quick guard Shannon Scott has embraced the role of playmaker, dishing more than looking to score. He set a school record with 16 assists in Sunday night a rout vs. Sacred Heart and he’s averaging 9.3 points and 13.7 assists.
17 - Michigan: Junior Spike Albrecht, who scored 17 points and made four three-pointers in the first half of a title-game loss to Louisville two seasons ago, isn’t off to as hot a start this year. He has scored 12 points in 77 minutes so far.
18 - Michigan State: Senior guard Travis Trice off to a monster start. He’s averaging 17.7 points and has hit half of his three-point shots.
19 - Miami, Fla.: Angel Rodriguez, the point guard who transferred from Kansas State, scored 24 points and hit a three-pointer with 16 seconds left to spark the Hurricanes’ victory at Florida. Another Big 12 transfer, Sheldon McClellan from Texas, also played a big role in the upset with nine points, seven rebounds and five assists.
20 - Arkansas: Mike Anderson making his old coach Nolan Richardson proud by coaching a defense that makes it tough for teams to take care of the ball. As hard as his players plays, particularly defensively, they need to take breathers. Anderson substitutes frequently and has 10 players averaging at least 15 minutes.
21 - UCLA: Sometimes the coach’s son plays a lot because he’s the coach’s son. Not the case here. Bryce Alford strokes it like his father Steve used to for Indiana. Bryce has made all 12 of his free throws and half of his three-point shots and is averaging 21 points, 10.7 assists and 1.7 steals.
22 - West Virginia: Bob Huggins’ coaching style isn’t for everyone and plays a part in a high transfer rate. Star Eron Harris and Terry Henderson were the latest to leave the program in the offseason. But give Huggins players with thick enough skin to take his brutal honesty and improve from it and Huggins will squeeze the most out of a team. The Mountaineers are off to a 5-0 start. After WVU harassed UConn into 19 turnovers in a 78-68 victory in Puerto Rico, Huggins said what he liked about his team.
“I’ve got my kind of guys again,” Huggins said. “I’ve got guys that are just going to keep swinging, you know?”
23 - Utah: If you like a player who does a little bit of everything, watch Utes 6-5 guard Delon Wright, who averages 11 points, 5.3 rebounds, 5.3 assists, 3.0 steals and 1.7 blocks.
24 - Georgetown: Senior Josh Smith, the Hoyas’ 6-10, 350-pound center who started his career at UCLA is off to a strong start. He’s averaging 17.3 points and 8.3 rebounds and will have a chance Wednesday to show what he can do against Florida.
25 - Oklahoma State: Anthony Allen, Jr., a 7-footer from Kingston, Jamaica, was the leading shot-blocker a year ago with 6.2 blocks a game. He’s not a scorer, but in 18.3 minutes a game is averaging 10 rebounds and 3.3 blocks a game. Is 7 for 7 from the field. But he’s going to have to do a better job of checking his temper to maximize his contributions to the Cowboys. He already missed a game because of a Flagrant 2.
It's amazing how many Kansas basketball fans have lost sleep over Kelly Oubre playing just four minutes in the season-opening, 10-point victory against UC Santa Barbara. It was one game, not even 3 percent of basketball season.
Whatever point Self made in limiting Oubre's minutes, the freshman McDonald's All-American either adjusted or he'll continue to spend long stretches on the bench until he gets the point. For all we know, Oubre already has worked his way out of a short stay in the doghouse, every coach's favorite word to read in the newspaper.
Self has not revealed the identity of his fifth starter tonight and it won't come as a surprise if it's Brannen Greene, Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk or Devonte Graham, playing with Frank Mason, Wayne Selden, Perry Ellis and Jamari Traylor.
But if I had to guess the identity of tonight's fifth starter against Kentucky, I'd say Oubre. He didn't like sitting for 36 minutes, so my guess is he gave Self what he wanted of him in practice. If Oubre does start, it doesn't hurt Kansas than Kentucky hasn't seen more than four minutes of regular-season game action to learn how Self wants to use him.
If Self had more showmanship in him, he would substitute his entire starting lineup two minutes into the game, beating John Calipari to the punch, just for laughs. It would last forever as one of the most memorable moves in Champions Classic history, lead every SportsCenter and add juice to the already strong Self-Calipari rivalry. Self's too old-school for that. Every move will be designed at trying to win tonight's game. Maybe even every move he made last game had a little of tonight in mind as well.
Ten Big 12 players, four from Kansas, make Wooden Award preseason top 50 list; UCSB’s Alan Williams snubbed
I wonder how John Wooden, in some ways the most famous name in the history of college basketball, would feel about the list of preseason candidates for the player of the year award that bears his name being based on NBA potential, not college performance.
Actually, having seen him coach and be interviewed on TV many times, I don’t wonder. Surely, he would not like it.
Yet, the preseason list of 50 candidates for the Wooden Award, released Monday, three days after the season started, had an omission that anyone who spent Friday night in Allen Fieldhouse would agree is unfortunate.
UC Santa Barbara center Alan Williams is not on a list that four Kansas players made: freshmen Cliff Alexander and Kelly Oubre, sophomore Wayne Selden and junior Perry Ellis.
Kansas defeated UCSB, 69-59, and in the process did a nice job of defending Williams. The senior finished with 22 points, 13 rebounds and four blocked shots. He scored 10 of his points in the final 5:16.
Oubre played four minutes and didn’t score a point or pick up a rebound. That’s not to say he won’t develop into a fine player by midseason, but that’s why the midseason Wooden Award watch list and allows for midseason adjustments. Twenty-five will make that cut and all the names don’t have to come from the original 50.
Williams ranked 12th in the nation in scoring (21.3) and second in rebounding (11.5) last season, but that didn’t merit top 50 status. Shame.
Interestingly, the Big 12, not the ACC, had the most candidates (10), followed by the ACC (eight), and the Big Ten and SEC (7).
The other Big 12 players on the list, listed in alphabetical order by player’s last name: Marcus Foster (Kansas State), Buddy Hield (Oklahoma), Georges Niang (Iowa State), Juwan Staten (West Virginia), Isaiah Taylor (Texas), Myles Turner (Texas).
Kansas and Kentucky (Willie Cauley-Stein, Aaron and Andrew Harrison, freshman Karl Anthony-Towns) are the only schools with as many as four players. Wichita State’s Fred Van Vleet is among the 50, which makes Kansas the only state represented by three different schools.
Kansas, which remained No. 5 in the Associated Press college basketball poll, faces No. 1 Kentucky in the second game of a Champions Classic doubleheader, in Indianapolis. No. 4 Duke faces No. 19 Michigan State in the first game.
The top 25 teams in The Associated Press' college basketball poll, with first-place votes in parentheses, records through Nov. 16, total points based on 25 points for a first-place vote through one point for a 25th-place vote and last week's ranking:
Record Pts Prv
- Kentucky (49) 2-0 1,574 1
- Arizona (4) 2-0 1,491 2
- Wisconsin (7) 2-0 1,475 3
- Duke (4) 2-0 1,422 4
- Kansas 1-0 1,306 5
- North Carolina 2-0 1,254 6
- Louisville 1-0 1,130 8
- Florida 1-0 1,127 7
- Virginia 2-0 1,065 9
- Texas 2-0 1,061 10
- Wichita St. 1-0 1,002 11
- Villanova 1-0 858 12
- Gonzaga 1-0 841 13
- Iowa St. 1-0 746 14
- VCU 1-0 654 15
- San Diego St. 1-0 564 16
- UConn 1-0 525 17
- Oklahoma 1-0 466 19
- Michigan St. 1-0 443 18
- Ohio St. 1-0 361 20
- Nebraska 1-0 298 21
- SMU 1-0 290 22
- Syracuse 2-0 190 23
- Michigan 1-0 177 24
- Utah 1-0 118 25
Others receiving votes: Stanford 63, Colorado 52, Iowa 48, UCLA 41, Kansas St. 29, Arkansas 23, Memphis 11, Minnesota 11, Notre Dame 10, Pittsburgh 10, Louisiana Tech 9, Dayton 7, Florida St. 6, NC State 6, Oklahoma St. 6, Cincinnati 5, George Washington 5, LSU 5, Illinois 3, Maryland 3, BYU 2, Baylor 2, UTEP 2, Georgetown 1, N. Iowa 1, Stephen F. Austin 1.
My AP top 25 ballot:
1 - Kentucky: If John Calipari could convince all nine McDonald’s All-Americans to return in 2015-16, SMU coach Larry Brown would predict a 75-0 season, instead of 45-0.
2 - Duke: Jahlil Okafor, a 6-11, 270-pound freshman from Chicago, averages 18 points and 7.5 rebounds. He’s made 85 percent of his shots and looks like a guy who really enjoys playing basketball.
3 - Arizona: The Pac-12 school in Tucson is one of seven schools appearing in AP’s top 25 in both basketball and football, joining Duke, Oklahoma and four Big Ten schools (Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State and Nebraska).
4 - Wisconsin: Two games in, underrated sophomore Nigel Hayes from Toledo has 23 rebounds.
5 - Kansas: Which KU player will earn the most money in the NBA over the next 15 years? I’ll say Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, even though others will get a head start on him. And you say?
6 - Texas: Sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor made made five three-pointers all of last season, four two games into this season. And 6-foot-11, 240-pound freshman Myles Turner has played 40 minutes, totaling 25 points, 13 rebounds and eight blocked shots. The Longhorns are loaded and shape up as legitimate national-title contenders.
7 - North Carolina: The academic scandal looks worse with every breaking story.
8 - Wichita State: Tekele Cotton has improved significantly every year and if his season debut (17 points, five rebounds, three steals) was an accurate indication, he’s primed for a big senior year.
9 - Louisville: None of the 15 players on the three All-American teams returned this season, so somebody had to be named preseason All-American. Montrezl Harrell, the 6-foot-8, 240-pound junior from Tarboro, North Carolina, seemed as good a choice as any. He certainly played like an All-American in delivering coach Rick Pitino a victory over son Richard. Harrell attempted 12 shots from the field and scored 30 points. He made 3 of 4 three-pointers and 9 of 10 free throws.
10 - Florida: The Gators are in the market for a football coach, which means the basketball team can fly under the radar for a while. Anybody else rooting for Steve Spurrier to return to Gainesville?
11 -Virginia: Big bodies, soft long-range shooting touches and a patient offensive approach combine to frustrate opponents who tend to fall behind and stay behind, getting tighter and tighter as the game clock shows less and less time.
12 - Villanova: Will need to shoot better than it did against Lehigh (8 for 33 from three) to win games in Big East, but did do other things well to compensate. In 77-66 victory, Wildcats limited Lehigh to four offensive rebounds and committed nine turnovers to the Mountain Hawks’ 23.
13 - Iowa State: Georges Niang, a tough guy to guard, is even tougher with improved conditioning, more experience and the team’s need for him to be the go-to guy. He totaled 30 points, nine rebounds and five assists in the Cyclones’ season-opening, 11-point victory against Oakland. And UNLV transfer Bryce Dejean-Jones, a 6-6, 210-pound scorer from Los Angeles, didn’t waste any time fitting in, with 20 points and 11 rebounds in his debut.
14 - Virginia Commonwealth: In scoring a 16-point victory against Tennessee, the Rams didn’t shoot well or take care of the basketball (18 turnovers), but they rebounded an amazing 47 percent of their misses.
15 - Gonzaga: Kyle Wiltjer, a 6-foot-10, 240-pound shooter, read the writing on the wall, which spelled the names of lottery picks galore, and bolted Kentucky, where he had averaged 10.2 points as a freshman. Nothing happened in his Zags debut to make him question that move. He scored 18 points and made 3 of 5 threes in 20 minutes against Sacramento State.
16 - Nebraska: Terran Petteway scored 25 points and made 6 of 9 threes in season-opener. Coming off averaging 18.1 points a year ago for the Cornhuskers, Petteway scored just 3.1 points a game as a freshman at Texas Tech.
17 - San Diego State: Coach Steve Fisher, an easy guy for whom to root, needs two more victories to reach the 500 milestone. His sixth won Michigan a national championship.
18 - SMU: Larry Brown will go down as one of the greatest coaches in basketball history and he wasn’t too shabby as a player. After playing for North Carolina, Brown was one of the original ABA players. In fact, Brown led the ABA in assists in each of the league’s first three seasons. He still sees the floor as well as anybody.
19 - Ohio State: Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell turned down Arizona, Florida, hometown Louisville and North Carolina to join the Buckeyes. He’s exactly what Ohio State needed, having its top three scorers from a team that needed scoring. A 6-5 lefty shooting guard, Russell debuted with a team-high 16 points and six assists.
20 - Oklahoma: TaShawn Thomas, a beast of a scorer and rebounder (15.4, 8.1) at Houston last season, has been granted immediate eligibility, which puts one more hurdle in KU’s way on its quest for an 11th consecutive Big 12 championship. He only had four points in 23 minutes in his Sooners debut, but he’ll be a force in time.
21 - Connecticut: The Huskies’ first title defense battle went better than that of Buster Douglas nearly a century ago, but not a whole lot better. Huskies had to get off the deck from a six-point deficit at the half to defeat Bryant, 66-53.
22 - Michigan: Wolverines opened season against Hillsdale College, a Div. II school in Michigan. The Wolverines shot threes (11 for 19) much better than they defended them (10 for 23).
23 - Notre Dame: Rough, rough ACC baptism for the Fighting Irish a year ago (15-17 overall, 6-12, tied for 11th in ACC), but that could be traced to Jerian Grant’s academic ineligibility for most of the season. He averaged 19 points a game. He and fellow senior Pat Connaughton give the Irish a great tandem at forward and sophomore guard Demetrius Jackson makes the team play at a fast pace.
24 - Michigan State: Putting the Spartans on the ballot is a reflex, but after they snuck by Navy by just eight points it’s worth wondering whether they deserve it, especially considering Notre Dame wasted the 25. Midshipmen by 39 points.
25 - Syracuse: The Washington Generals weren’t available so the Orange opened the season slaughtering Kennesaw State by 47 points and Hampton by 18.
I don’t think UC Santa Barbara will upset Kansas in tonight’s season-opener in Allen Fieldhouse. The home-court advantage is much greater in the fieldhouse than most places — especially in home openers, in which KU has won 41 in a row. Plus, Kansas has greater depth of talent.
But I will say that this sort of experience imbalance fits the profile of a March Madness upset. Two players on the floor tonight best illustrate the challenge for a young, elite school trying to defeat an experienced mid-major with a star player, and the challenge the mid-major faces in trying to overcome a raw talent disparity.
UCSB senior Alan Williams, all 6-foot-8, 265 pounds of him, ranked 12th in the nation with 21.3 points per game and second with 11.5 rebounds.
Kansas freshman Cliff Alexander, all 6-8, 240 of him, ranked fourth per rivals.com among Class of 2014 recruits.
Both men have long wingspans — Williams 7-1-1/2, Alexander 7-3 — and Alexander is a more explosive jumper, a faster runner, blessed with better lateral quickness. Alexander can do certain things Williams never will be able to do because he has a more athletic body. Alexander can’t yet do many things Williams can, such as know how to make himself available in the post to receive passes for easy buckets, because he didn’t need to develop sophistication in his game to dominate. Properly sealing his man for an over-the-top pass is a reflex to Williams from any spot in the post. It’s something Alexander is learning on a daily basis at the big-man laboratory that on an annual basis is as good as any in the country. Williams knows how to draw fouls and avoid them. Alexander is learning how to do that.
Williams, who won’t play as difficult a schedule as Alexander, will produce more consistently. Alexander, coming off the bench tonight, will have help if he ever guards Williams. (Kansas likely will start with Jamari Traylor on him). During his time on the floor last season, Williams took 37.17 percent of his team’s shots, fifth-highest figure in the nation. So how does Kansas stop him tonight? The first step includes rattling the guards into throwing the ball away, even using full-court pressure at times.
“Williams is a great guy at getting angles,” Self said. “He scores before he catches. He’s a man down there. And he goes after the ball like a man. We haven’t had a man compete like he’ll compete against us, even in practice guarding each other, because he really gets after it.”
Nobody expects Alexander at this stage of his career to be as good at putting himself into easy scoring position as Williams, but nothing would make Alexander’s coach happier than if he duplicated the Gauchos All-American candidate in one area.
“You guys see him when the lights are on in the games,” Self said of Alexander. “I see him every day, and I will tell you this: I want him to be much more aggressive than what he’s been, but he is an aggressive-by-nature guy.”
Beyond Traylor and Alexander, Kansas has shot-blocker Hunter Mickelson and physical Landen Lucas are available to throw different looks at Williams.
Post defense ranks high among Self’s list of concerns about his shorter-than-usual roster and the Jayhawks are hit with a big test right off the bat, thanks to Williams.
“I wonder a lot about it and our length,” Self said. “He’s plenty good enough that if you play behind, he catches it and scores over you. If you front him, he’s great at sealing and they throw over and they look to do that, so we’re going to have to be pretty alert on the weak side, that’s for sure.”
UC Santa Barbara went 21-9 overall and 12-4 in the Big West last season, good for second place behind UC Irvine.
Michael Bryson, a 6-4, 201-pound junior, averaged 11.5 points a year ago and shot .417 from three-point range. Kyle Boswell, a 6-2 senior guard, averaged 10.4 points and shot .429 from three.
“Williams is their star, but Byron is a really good player, too, and he can move around the post, he’s a good three-point shooter, good athlete and they’re really quick on the perimeter,” Self said. “And they can stretch it the majority of the game at four spots, so it’ll be hard to trap the post and do things like that.”
After totaling 39 points, nine rebounds and eight blocked shots in an 83-64 rout of South Dakota State last December, the humble Williams showed he is as comfortable in front of a microphone as he is in the paint.
Traditional powerhouses, including Kansas at No. 5, dominated the top of the preseason Associated Press college basketball poll released Friday.
Loaded Kentucky, snagging 52 of 65 first-place votes, is ranked first followed by Arizona, Wisconsin, Duke, KU and North Carolina.
The poll, with first-place votes in parentheses and total points:
1 - Kentucky (52)
2 - Arizona (5)
3 - Wisconsin (8)
4 - Duke
5 - Kansas
6 - North Carolina
7 - Florida
8 - Louisville
9 - Virginia
10 - Texas
11 - Wichita State
12 - Villanova
13 - Gonzaga
14 - Iowa State
15 - Virginia Commonwealth
16 - San Diego State
17 - Connecticut
18 - Michigan State
19 - Oklahoma
20 - Ohio State
21 - Nebraska
22 - SMU
23 - Syracuse
24 - Harvard
25 - Utah
Others receiving votes: Stanford 71, Iowa 58, Colorado 57, UCLA 35, Minnesota 34, Kansas State 27, Arkansas 21, Pittsburgh 20, Memphis 15, NC State 14, Louisiana Tech 9, Cincinnati 8, LSU 8, George Washington 7, Notre Dame 6, Oklahoma State 6, Dayton 6, Georgetown 5, Florida State 5, Maryland 3, Illinois 3, UNLV 2, Brigham Young 2, West Virginia 1, Baylor 1, Stephen F. Austin 1, UTEP 1.
The top 25 ballot I sent to AP:
1 - Kentucky: Nine McDonald’s All-Americans, plus Willie Cauley-Stein, an embarrassment of riches.
Remember the 78-76 thriller of a victory against Wichita State in as good a game as was played in the NCAA Tournament? Well, Kentucky has 52 of its 78 points back from that one, in addition to four new McDonald’s All-Americans, including 7-footer Karl Towns, projected top five NBA selection.
Outspoken coach John Calipari has said he will play two platoons of five, subbing all five for the other five to start the season. We’ll see if he sticks with that plan.
2 - Duke: Point guard Tyus Jones and center Jahlil Okafor, two of the nation’s top freshmen, mixed in with steady seniors Quinn Cook in the backcourt and Amile Jefferson in the frontcourt, plus junior guard Rasheed Sulaimon all adds up to a team ready to start the season on a roll that will be tough to slow down.
3 - Kansas: Long on depth and short on height, Kansas will only improve significantly from last season if its point guard play does. If Conner Frankamp, ill-equipped to defend Big 12 point guards, were the answer he would not have transferred.
4 - Arizona: The Pac-12 will have a down year, keeping Arizona from playing a schedule that will make it less tested than most heavyweights in March. Still, there is plenty to like about this team, starting with 7-footer Kaleb Tarczewski, former recruiting target of KU. He’s a nice complement to talented forwards Brandon Ashley and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.
5 - Texas: Much of the preseason talk will center on 6-11 freshman sharpshooter Myles Turner, sophomore point guard Isaiah Taylor and senior forward Johnathan Holmes, but it’s junior center Cameron Ridley who can turn this team into a monster. A 6-9, 285-pound force, Ridley’s tough to keep off the boards. If he can continue to improve his touch from the free-throw line (.333 as a freshman, .626 as a sophomore) he can become a handful for every Big 12 team.
6 - North Carolina: Marcus Paige, the slender, lefty point guard can score and still has the gift of making everyone on the court with him better. Roy Williams never sends a boring team onto the court and this year’s squad certainly is no exception.
7 - Louisville: Rick Pitino opens the season vs. Minnesota, coached by son Richard on Nov. 14, a made-for-TV matchup with some sizzle. Louisville’s Pitino has a shot at having as smooth an ACC debut as his former boss, Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim. Forward Montrezl Harrell, an explosive, strong, relentless force underneath, would be one of the best players in any league.
8 - Wichita State: It still hacks me off that the NCAA Tournament committee put two of the nation’s best teams on a crash-course toward each other so early in the tournament. Few coaches know how to turn slights into advantages the way Gregg Marshall can, so look for that to benefit the Shockers, led by cerebral point guard Fred Van Vleet and born scorer Ron Baker. Look for Frankamp to join the lineup second semester next season.
9 - Florida: Just one starter returns, but fear not Billy Donovon will teach long, quick athletes how to play really tough defense and the Gators will exceed preseason expectations.
10 - Michigan State: The Spartans lost a ton from last season, but if underrated forward Branden Dawson can stay healthy, he could be tough to stop.
11 - Wisconsin: You don’t feel great for Badgers coach Bo Ryan making the Final Four for the first time a year ago, you don’t have a heart. The Badgers return 82 percent of their scoring and 85 percent of their rebounding. Frank Kaminsky, a 7-foot three-point threat, leads the way and forward Sam Dekker isn’t far behind. Teams will look to make their seasons by upsetting Wisconsin, a new feeling for the Badgers, who will get everybody’s best shot.
12 - Villanova: Darrun Hilliard scored 14 points in ‘Nova’s 63-59 victory against Kansas in the Bahamas. JayVaughn Pinkston had 13 and Ryan Acridiacono hit the game-winning three-pointer. They’re all back. It felt like an upset at the time but really wasn’t, considering the Wildcats went on to earn a No. 2 seed.
13 - Iowa State: If Fred Hoiberg were raised in, played college ball in and coached in Washington, D.C. instead of Ames, his nickname would be The President and he would look the part. Players develop under him because he gives them the freedom to shoot and puts them in position to take good shots. Georges Niang, who looks as if he’s lost all of his body fat, is one of the more interesting big men to watch in college basketball because he has such refined passing and shooting skills from the perimeter and is clever in the post as well.
14 - Virginia: Tony Bennett, son of Wisconsin coaching legend Dick Bennett, did more than hoist three-pointers with remarkable accuracy playing for his father at Wisconsin-Green Bay. He also paid attention to how the coach drew the most out of his talent and is doing the same at Virginia. The Cavs won the ACC regular season and post-season titles by playing at a deliberate pace, screening to open shots and playing scrappy defense. Can the Cavs do it again. Their talent level says no, but then again it said the same thing a year ago.
15 - Connecticut: Tied for third in the American Athletic Conference, the Huskies caught fire and won the NCAA Tournament under second-year coach Kevin Ollie. Guard Ryan Boatright is the lone returning starter, so a repeat isn’t likely. But the Huskies will play their hearts out for their coach and exceed expectations.
16 - Virginia Commonwealth: Every year, a school with a longer basketball tradition offers coach Shaka Smart a hefty pay raise and every year he turns it down to stay put. Pretty cool.
17 - Gonzaga: Guard Kevin Pangos, a three-time All-West Coast Conference selection returns for what seems like his 25th season in Spokane, which I’m told is beautiful this time of year.
18 - Nebraska: Andrew White III found a perfect landing spot, but will have to sit out this season before playing for Tim Miles. Just because White wasn’t quite good enough to crack the Kansas rotation, doesn’t mean he won’t become a big-time scorer for Nebraska. Small forward Terran Petteway averaged 3.1 for Texas Tech as a freshman, sat out a year as a transfer, and averaged 18.1 points as a third-year sophomore for the Cornhuskers.
19 - San Diego State: Steve Fisher is the anti-Bo Derek. The actress best known for her role in 10 always had such an interesting, almost exotic look. But she was so boring in interviews. Fisher looks as if he should be boring and then he opens his mouth and out spills humor, insight and candor. If center Skylar Spencer can play as he did in a four-point victory in Allen Fieldhouse (nine points, six rebounds, six blocked shots) on a regular basis, Fisher’s Aztecs will be more interesting than most project them to be at this point.
20 - SMU: Those close to Larry Brown say the former KU coach was big-time bummed when Emmanuel Mudiay, the nation’s top point-guard recruit, decided to play a year professionally in China instead of preparing for the NBA with one season at SMU, but I feel more sorry for Mudiay than for Brown. The teenager could have learned so much about how to play the game from Brown.
“He took eight different teams to the NBA playoffs," ESPN's Jay Bilas said after a recent KU practice. "Who does that? I mean, he’s a tremendous teacher. He played in the Olympics. He’s still the only man who has won an NCAA and NBA title. Played on the Olympic team. I think you could put Larry Brown’s experience in the game up against anybody’s. It’s an incredible, varied experience as a player and a coach.”
In the long run, that could have benefited Mudiay, who already has a game as sweet as tupelo honey, more than all the tea in China.
21 - Ohio State: Freshman guard D’Angelo Russell has the potential to solve the scoring problems the Buckeyes had a year ago. I bet your figured out all by yourself that when I said scoring I meant “scoring the basketball” as so many broadcasters and coaches are fond of saying. It’s the most annoying phrase ever to creep into basketball lexicon. It must stop, but it won’t unless you write your Congressman and encourage your friends, neighbors and relatives to do the same.
22. - Oklahoma: The Sooners await word on whether the NCAA will grant Houston transfer TaShawn Thomas immediate eligibility. A three-year starter at Houston, the forward is a versatile scorer and productive rebounder. Buddy Hield will try to improve on his team-leading totals of 16.7 points per game and 90 three-pointers.
23 - Michigan: The Wolverines have lost so much talent the past two seasons that the logical conclusion is there just isn’t enough talent to make up a Top 25 team. But that disregards the impact of John Bielein, a good guy and great coach. He’ll put enough confident scoring threats around star wing Caris LaVert to give him room to blossom and Michigan will remain a tough out.
24 - Syracuse: Coach Jim Boeheim has whiney expressions and sometimes words. He looks like a grump. And he’s the most underrated college basketball coach in the land. Boeheim lost a lot from last year’s team, but he has a gift for fitting pieces together in the right way and is a master at teaching a 2-3 zone nobody likes facing.
25 - Pittsburgh: Panthers lack star power, but they always know how to frustrate opponents by drawing them into ugly grind-it-out games.