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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Gary Parrish, CBS, "Five Teams that Needs a Visit From Santa"

Five teams that need a visit from basketball Santa
Dec. 26, 2006
By Gary Parrish
CBS Senior Writer

What Santa should've brought: How about a brain for Derrick Caracter? The talented forward has been a disaster at Louisville, and he's now at home, sent there by Rick Pitino because he doesn't work, listen or do anything else a freshman should do when he has a national championship coach trying to help get him to the NBA. It's unclear whether Caracter will return. But if he's smart -- and that's a big if, even bigger than Caracter before he admirably dropped 50 pounds and got into shape at Louisville -- he'll re-evaluate his situation, show some humility and finally become the basketball player everybody so badly wants him to become. Otherwise, he can call fellow New Jersey native Sean Banks and see how things are going with the Anaheim Arsenal.

Ohio State
What Santa should've brought: How about a healed right wrist for Greg Oden? A 7-0 center, Oden is a monster in the paint, and whichever NBA team is lucky enough to get him could have a shot to win NBA titles in five years. Still, the Ohio State freshman isn't so overwhelming that he can handle the best with his dominant hand basically off-limits, and that was obvious Saturday when Florida's Al Horford and Joakim Noah taught the kid a lesson and proved he was human. Oden won't see a frontline like that unless he faces Florida again in the NCAA Tournament; that's the good news. But we won't know how truly great the Buckeyes can be until their phenom again has full use of his right hand.

What Santa should've brought: How about a shooter? The first time I spoke with Vance Walberg about his innovative offense that has been adopted by Memphis, the current Pepperdine coach explained that for things to run perfectly a team needs two drivers, two shooters and a big man who can run. Last season, Memphis had three guys who could drive (Darius Washington, Chris Douglas-Roberts and Shawne Williams), four guys who could shoot (Washington, Williams, Rodney Carney and Antonio Anderson) and a big man who could run (Joey Dorsey). Consequently, the Tigers finished 33-4 and advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament. But of those shooters, only Anderson is still around, and he's shooting 23.4 percent from 3-point range this season compared to 36.5 percent last season. As a team, Memphis is making only 31.5 percent of its 3-point attempts, and of the regulars only Jeremy Hunt is sinking more than 33.3 percent. So it's no wonder the Tigers are 9-3 with only one good win (against Kentucky). It's because they're running an offense averaging 24.6 3-point attempts per game, but they're making just 7.8 of them.

What Santa should've brought: How about some games on the West Coast? While you have to admire Mark Few's willingness to schedule tough the season after losing Adam Morrison and J.P. Batista, the slate of games has clearly taken a toll. Already, the Zags (based in Spokane, Wash.) have been to New York twice (to play North Carolina and Butler in November; to play Duke last week) and to suburban Atlanta once (to play Georgia on Dec. 16), and next week it's another trip east for a Jan. 3 game at Virginia. Given Gonzaga's 9-4 record (and terrible performance against Georgia), it appears all the traveling is too much. But the good news is that the Zags should be more than prepared for league play, and all the neutral site games will make the NCAA Tournament format seem familiar. For those in search of a silver lining, that is it.

What Santa should've brought: How about some chemistry? There is no reason a team featuring Demetris Nichols, Eric Devendorf, Paul Harris, Josh Wright and Terrence Roberts should be 0-3 against the only three schools it's played that are seemingly capable of earning an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Alas, Syracuse is, and two of the losses (to Wichita State and Drexel) came at home. Regardless, the Orange are still 10-3, and they still have a Hall of Fame coach in Jim Boeheim capable of figuring everything out. Because of that, I believe this team will get straight, but there's no denying things aren't going as planned.

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