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Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Count Down Begins - One More Month to Wait

As Mike DeCoursey of the Sporting News reminded me this morning, college basketball season is but one month away.

So this is a great time to start reflecting on what I think we will be seeing from the Memphis Tigers and the rest of college basketball.

There are several important questions regarding Memphis:

1) How will the Sophomore class (CDR, Robert Dozier, Antonio Anderson, Kareem Cooper) react to last year? Will there be a sophomore slump or will these guys step up to be the leaders this team will require to get back deep in the NCAA tournament?

2) Will Jeremy Hunt be a factor? Is he a leader? How will the rest of the team accept him on the court versus being on the sidelines?

3) And what about this heralded Freshman class? Hashim Bailey, Willie Kemp, Doneal Mack, Pierre Niles and Tre'Von Willis. At least two of these guys need to be big impact players. My guess - Willie Kemp and Doneal Mack. The other three I expect to get some minutes, but basically be bench players.

My first and second team

Likely Starters

1 - Andre Allen, Jr.
2 - Antonio Anderson, So.
3 - Chris Douglas-Roberts, So.
4 - Robert Dozier, So.
5 - Joey Dorsey, Jr.

Likely 2nd Team

1 - Willie Kemp, Fr.
2 - Doneal Mack, Fr.
3 - Jeremy Hunt, Sr.
4 - Pierre Niles, Fr.
5 - Kareem Cooper, So.

And a few questions about Conference USA

1) Will it be any better? C-USA was the #13 conference in the RPI last year - clearly a problem for Memphis.

UAB (#32 last year) lost their best players to graduation and there very fine coach, Mike Anderson, to Missouri. Now Mike Davis is a good coach, but as Mike Davis says, UAB is probably a year away. Look for UAB's RPI to fall this year.

Houston (#53) has an excellent coach in Tommy Penders and seems to be gaining traction as a program. Hopefully, we see some improvement in Houston's RPI and better overall non-conference scheduling from the Cougers. Last year was odd - they beat Arizona at home and won at LSU, but lost at home to Virginia Commonwealth and Central Florida. Also the benefit of playing #24 Arizona and #13 LSU is offset with #325 Centenary. With the addition of two new league games this year, Memphis has added second games with Houston and SMU.

UTEP (#76) will see some change adding a new coach, former Tiger assistant Tony Barbee. While I know UTEP has traditionally been a tough place to play, I get the feeling this program is in decline. I can't put my finger on just why yet, but I'll let you know soon. Again as with Houston, UTEP needs to improve the non-conference schedule. You can't play #307 Texas Southern, #258 Alabama A&M and #297 Mississippi Valley State - not when you have #268 SMU, #300 East Carolina, #217 Tulane, #231 Marshall, #203 Tulsa, #246 Sou Mississippi and #218 Rice in your league.

Please Conference USA ADs and Coaches, improvement comes from recruiting and scheduling. You clearly need some help.

I am encouraged by two programs - Rice, who should have a decent year, and SMU, who has added a big name coach with good experience.

3) And finally on a National basis, who is really good. My picks:

Ohio State, Florida, North Carolina, Kansas, UCLA

Not sold on:

LSU, Texas, the Big East (though I do like Marquette)

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