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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Calipari's Good Mood

Calipari’s good mood

Posted by Dan Wolken

Though he admitted Wednesday to still being jetlagged from his trans-Pacific travels, I’ve rarely seen John Calipari in better spirits. I think there were a few things factoring into his mood.

For one, Calipari was still on a high about the agreement with China, which received tons of coverage nationally and has been toasted as a triumph both for him personally and the University of Memphis. Also, Calipari was just happy to be back in the gym with his team and actually get two hours of real practice in Wednesday afternoon. “I felt good being out there,” he said. (To refresh: The NCAA allows coaches to spend two hours a week with their players during the offseason until the official start of practice on Oct. 12.). Though Memphis missed upwards of 80 layups during the practice and didn’t shoot particularly well overall, the effort, the enthusiasm and the level of playmaking was remarkably high given how early it is. In fact, at the end of practice, Calipari even mentioned to his players that he was impressed given that the calendar still hasn’t turned over to October yet.

My sense was that Calipari was also happy about the way recruiting has been going, given that he was out on the road Sunday, Monday and Tuesday after returning from China. He confirmed that was indeed the case. Though he can’t talk specifically about players, he said he was genuinely excited about what might develop over the next few weeks in the 2008 recruiting class, which at this point includes only Angel Garcia. It’s clear Memphis is looking to get two or perhaps three more players to round out the class.

A couple notes:
– Memphis had a couple media visitors Wednesday. John Akers from the Basketball Times is in town working on preseason stories about Memphis. Luke Cyphers from ESPN the Magazine was also there to interview Derrick Rose for a feature story.

– After Calipari’s press conference about the China trip on Wednesday, he was asked whether this five-year agreement should put an end to speculation about how long he’ll stay at Memphis. “My wife asked me, ‘What does this mean?’” Calipari said. “I said, ‘It means we’re locked in.’” I’ve only been in Memphis for a year, but I’ve been around long enough to know one thing: I wouldn’t jump to any conclusions based on that answer.

Posted Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 at 9:05 pm

Dickie V's Chatter on Southern Miss and Tulane

• Last year I gave Southern Mississippi my cupcake city award. Maybe Larry Eustachy took that to heart. The Golden Eagles have improved their schedule, adding road games at California and Alabama.

• Tulane coach Dave Dickerson will certainly collect frequent flyer miles this season. His Green Wave team is playing at Buffalo and at Syracuse, as well as a trip to Hawaii for the Rainbow Classic. The good news is the team plays seven of its first 10 games at home before going to Hawaii.

Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News - Cheat Sheet for College Hoops Season

Cheat sheet for college hoops season
Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News

Posted: September 27, 2007

One thing I learned in college -- or maybe through repeated viewings of National Lampoon's Animal House -- is that getting good grades is easier when you have the test questions ahead of time.

The 2007-08 season is coming fast. No need to pull an all-nighter when I'm here to help:

1. Can Memphis outrun the big fellas? Vegas might tell you the odds aren't steep against the Tigers, but there are some numbers not in their favor.

Such as: Of the past 64 Final Four teams, 61 are current members of BCS conferences. Likewise, of the past 64 No. 1 seeds, 61 are from current BCS schools. Maybe it helps that John Calipari was in charge of two of the interlopers on the seed list -- UMass in 1996 and Memphis in 2006.

2. Can North Carolina control the crowd? All-American Tyler Hansbrough declined slightly as a sophomore because it was too easy for opponents to double-team him. Power forward Brandan Wright lacked the skills to lure defenders away from the lane the way predecessor David Noel did. Thing is, Wright's successor, Deon Thompson, also plays close to the goal.

3. Can Bill Self break through? Here's an ominous stat : No coach has reached the Final Four after falling short four times in the regional _ nals. Connecticut's Jim Calhoun got there after three Elite Eight losses, as did Rollie Massimino at Villanova. But Self and Kansas are looking to explore new territory. What they'd like to avoid: Temple's John Chaney lost in the Elite Eight five times.

4. Can Washington State do it when we're watching? There's no question the Cougars can play; if it wasn't sealed already, scoring guard Derrick Low settled the discussion by pulling the U.S. team out of its funk at the Pan American Games. But the pressures are different when you're expected to be 10th in the nation rather than 10th in the Pac-10. It's nice the non league schedule is so forgiving.

5. Can USC's O.J. Mayo avoid controversy for an entire season?

6. Was Arkansas undercoached or overrated? It's possible all that talent just needed another season to mature and coalesce. New coach John Pelphrey will not have the luxury of taking his time getting this turned around.

7. Will a defensive coordinator help Arizona? Last year's Wildcats ranked seventh among Pac-10 teams in field goal defense and ninth in scoring defense. In light of that generosity, it made sense to open the wallet and hire defensive guru Kevin O'Neill.

8. Is it a good thing or a bad thing that Connecticut has all the players back from a 17-14 team ? (This looks like an essay question.)

9. True or false: You can win the national title without a post presence on either offense or defense. Tennessee would really like the answer to be true. It's false.

10. Is it possible to have five freshmen on the All-American team? It's crazy, I know. But give me Kevin Love (center, UCLA), Michael Beasley (power forward, Kansas State), Eric Gordon (shooting guard, Indiana), Derrick Rose (point guard, Memphis) and Mayo (point guard, USC) and I will sleep peacefully through every class from now to March.

Richmond, Maine and UT-Martin Round Out Memphis Regional in 2k Sports College Hoops Classic

Tiger schedule complete
Posted by Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal

Though there aren’t any real surprises, the bracket for the 2k Sports College Hoops Classic benefiting Coaches vs. Cancer is finally out.

Richmond, Maine and UT-Martin are the three other teams that will play in the Memphis regional, with the Tigers getting UT-Martin first on Nov. 5. Assuming Memphis wins that game — and there’s no reason to believe it shouldn’t — the Tigers will likely face Richmond the next night with a trip to New York on the line. (One sidenote: The Richmond-Maine game tips off at the highly unusual time of 3 p.m. on a Monday afternoon.) I am a bit familiar with Richmond simply because of its head coach, Chris Mooney, who I covered when he was at Air Force. Mooney played at Princeton and is a devout disciple of the Pete Carril/Bill Carmody/Joe Scott-style Princeton lineage. Though I certainly wouldn’t expect a young Richmond team to hang with Memphis, that can be a very difficult style to play against, especially in the second game of the season when you’re still trying to get organized.

Assuming the Tigers handle Richmond, it looks like they’ll get Oklahoma for the semifinals in New York. That would be a rematch of their first-round game in last year’s EA Sports Maui Invitational. Memphis didn’t have too much trouble in that game, winning 77-65, but Oklahoma should be an improved team in its second year under Jeff Capel and with McDonald’s All-American Blake Griffin coming aboard. His older brother, Taylor Griffin, was the one player who really hurt Memphis in last year’s meeting with 16 points and 10 rebounds and returns for his junior season.

It wouldn’t surprise anybody if Memphis gets another Maui rematch in the championship game against Kentucky. Then again, it might be UConn, and who wouldn’t love to see a John Calipari-Jim Calhoun matchup in the finals? If you haven’t heard, those two guys don’t like each other very much.

Posted Wednesday, September 26th, 2007 at 11:45 am

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

From Andrew Skwara, - Who's This Year's Durant?

Who's this year's Durant?
By Andrew Skwara, College Basketball Staff Writer

Do you think a freshman, such as O.J. Mayo or Eric Gordon, could win national player of the year, as Kevin Durant did last season? And how big of an impact do you think this freshman class will have?.

I expect at least one freshman to be in the hunt for the player of the year award. Gordon, Mayo and Kansas State's Michael Beasley ('s No. 1 prospect) are joining teams that need them to put up big numbers immediately. They are also on top 20-caliber teams.

What Durant pulled off last season also should make it easier for writers to vote for another freshman.

I don't know if you ever will see a freshman class have as big an impact as last season's. The class of 2006 – headlined by the top two picks in the NBA Draft, Greg Oden and Durant – was the best in recent years. The group happened to arrive at a time when many teams were trying to fill massive holes. Texas and Ohio State lost four starters apiece; Villanova had lost two draft picks, which paved the way for a big season from Scottie Reynolds.

Freshmen will play a big role in 2007-08, too. Gordon, Mayo and Beasley will be in the national spotlight all season. Plus, two other top-10 prospects will be playing key roles in the title hunt: UCLA's Kevin Love and Memphis' Derrick Rose.

Love gives the Bruins exactly what they have been missing in the Ben Howland era, a true inside presence. Rose, a multi-dimensional playmaker, might be Memphis' best player from Day One. That's impressive considering the Tigers return all the starters from a 34-win team.

From Plissken at the Buzzer - A Blog on West Coast Basketball

From Plissken at the Buzzer

September 24, 2007
Let's Plan a Robbery

Last week,'s Andy Katz wrote an article on the nonconference schedules of many top NCAA teams and how they could influence the proceedings on Selection Sunday. The Memphis Tigers occupied his top spot (in terms of both schedule quality and his pre-preseason Top 25), and for good reason. In a word, their schedule is just about perfect. Katz gave them a well-deserved A and detailed many of the reasons for that grade, but I'd like to go into more depth to show exactly why this slate of games fits their team so well.

The amount of big-name teams on the schedule is striking. The Tigers open the year with the 2K College Hoops Classic, a regional/NYC tournament that features Kentucky, UConn, and Oklahoma as the other preliminary hosts and logical opponents at Madison Square Garden. While those names all carry some weight, none of those teams is a potential worldbeater, meaning that Coach Cal will have time to bring Derrick Rose along against quality competition without fear of having in over his head right off the bat.

The game against USC in MSG a few weeks later is an absolute master stroke. While it won't be as big a challenge as it might have looked when Calipari scheduled the game (i.e. before the Trojans lost Nick Young and Gabe Pruitt to the NBA), a win over a solid Pac-10 team will carry a lot of weight this year. Perhaps most importantly, though, the Rose/Mayo matchup will undoubtedly bring a lot of attention to both programs, ensuring that Memphis's recruiting pipeline of freak athletes will not dry up any time soon.

As Katz mentions in his article, Memphis has some unbelievable home games on the schedule, including Arizona, Tennessee, Georgetown, and Gonzaga. I have no idea how the Tigers managed to work that slate out, but it ensures that they'll have at least two high-profile wins -- honestly, I'd be shocked if they don't get three or four from that group -- at hand when it comes time to assign #1 seeds.

Now, in looking at Memphis's schedule, it's important to realize that they must play a large number of quality nonconference opponents because of the general putridity of Conference USA. What looks like an incredibly tough schedule now will likely look as difficult as that of every major conference leader by the end of the season. Yet that's exactly what makes the location of the home and neutral games so important to the Tigers' chances of getting a #1 seed; it's as if Calipari knew exactly how many big wins they needed and acted accordingly.

If there's one hole in the nonconference schedule, it's that there's only one true road game, a likely win at Cincinnati in mid-December. However, even that criticism seems unimportant given Memphis's situation in C-USA. Essentially, preconference road games are only important insofar as they prepare a team for their toughest conference games away from home. Memphis, though, will be such an overwhelming favorite in every C-USA game that home and road designations won't even make much of a difference. Memphis's nonconference schedule is in place to win them a high seed and to prepare them for the grind of the tournament. The neutral games in New York do exactly that. The road game is just there for posterity.

Random site news: Things might be a bit spotty over the next week; I just started grad school today and don't want to screw anything up in the first week. However, I'm in the middle of writing a giant post (in terms of both length and importance to this blog) on the systems of college programs, so expect that some time soon.

Posted by Ty Keenan at 11:35 PM

ESPN's Andy Katz Reporting Cal Visiting Tyreke Evans

From ESPN's Andy Katz

Memphis coach John Calipari landed back from China Sunday and hit the road recruiting. He was off to visit with Tyreke Evans, No. 2 on the ESPN 150 list. The 6-5 Evans out of Aston, Pa., is considering Lousiville, Villanova, Memphis, Texas and Connecticut, according to Scouts Inc. Calipari is then jettisoning around the Northeast and Southeast to look at more recruits. Calipari said he'll be gone a total of nearly two weeks with his China trip and then recruiting. Calipari is still ecstatic about his trip to China and the benefits for Memphis going forward. He's hoping to put together a documentary on the experience of the one Chinese coach chosen (among 15 coming in October) to be with the Tigers throughout the season.

Monday, September 24, 2007

New Derrick Rose Video on YouTube

New Derrick Rose Video on YouTube

Curfew a Blessing in Disguise for Tigers

Curfew a blessing in disguise for Tigers
Calipari's rules bring players closer together
By Dan Wolken
Sunday, September 23, 2007

At first, Tiger junior forward Robert Dozier admitted, it was hard to get used to the team's early curfew and other restrictions. But now he says the team will benefit from coach Cal's directive.

The punishment, at first, seemed severe. To the 18-to-23 year olds who populate the University of Memphis basketball team, the restrictions placed on them appeared a brutal sentence.

But three weeks after coach John Calipari instituted a curfew and a no-nightclub policy in the wake of an ugly incident on Beale Street, several players said the adjustment hasn't been as rough as expected.

"We thought it was going to be real bad at first, but when we look at it, it's not as bad," junior guard Chris Douglas-Roberts said. "It makes us closer, helps our chemistry. We find things to do. It's not like we're a team that doesn't like each other anyway, so that just helps us. It's all basketball now, and that's not doing nothing but helping us.

"Curfew, it's like a blessing in disguise."

Of course, the Tigers didn't have much of a choice but to accept their fate when Calipari met with his team Sept. 2 and laid down his strictest set of laws in his 16 years as a college head coach.

Earlier that morning, at roughly 3 a.m., freshman Jeff Robinson and sophomore Shawn Taggart were arrested outside the Plush Club and charged with disorderly conduct and inciting a riot for their roles in a large-scale disturbance. (Robinson was also charged with misdemeanor assault.)

Senior Joey Dorsey was named in the police report as the player who started the melee, but he was not on the scene when officers arrived, and no witnesses have come forward to file charges against him.

Taggart and Robinson have pleaded not guilty to their charges; they are due back in court Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Calipari took immediate action to ensure his players wouldn't find more trouble late at night. He set a curfew of 11 p.m. during the week, midnight on the weekends. He banned them from going to bars and nightclubs, even asking Memphians to snap cell phone pictures if his players are somewhere they're not supposed to be. And he issued a stern warning about not being the first one to violate his new rules.

Calipari admitted he had perhaps given his players too much freedom before. But with so much on the line -- the Tigers are openly campaigning to be ranked No. 1 in the preseason -- the players agreed that there is comfort in their new social structure.

"It's probably the best thing for us," junior forward Robert Dozier said. "We've been so tired, you don't want to do nothing after 9 or 10 (p.m.) anyway. Guys are getting used to it. Hopefully, it will pay off in the long run."

One factor making the curfew easier is that the Tigers can suffer through it as a group. With all the players living together in an on-campus townhouse, they said it has been a lot of video games, a lot of DVDs and a lot of talking.

"We just sit around, joke, have fun and socialize," Taggart said. "We're getting to know each other more and more, getting to be more close-knit by the day. It's a good thing for us. We don't need to be out there. Like coach said, there ain't nothing good out there at 3 o'clock. Sometimes we come into the gym at night, play two-dribbles-and-shoot, do extra workouts, then by curfew we're back in the room resting."

With all the publicity the curfew received, junior guard Antonio Anderson said people will question the players practically any time they leave the townhouse. But the biggest consequence so far, Anderson said, has been an unexpected one: cell phone bills.

"Everybody's talking a lot, going over their minutes," Anderson said, laughing. "We sit in the house, play video games, joke on each other. That's pretty much all we do."

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

Gonzaga Unveils Brutal Schedule (@ Memphis Jan 26th)

Gonzaga unveils brutal schedule
Top 25 squad looks to balance weak conference
Friday September 21, 2007 10:52AM

SPOKANE, Wash. (AP) -- Gonzaga's basketball team, seeking the return of star Josh Heytvelt and a return to the Top 25, will play Washington State, Tennessee and Memphis this season, according to the schedule released Thursday.

For the fourth straight year, nearly every game will be televised.

And once again, the Zags have loaded up on non-conference foes to balance out a weak West Coast Conference schedule in the eyes of poll voters.

"This is another challenging schedule," coach Mark Few said. "We'll meet some outstanding teams, but I think this team is up to the task."

Gonzaga will play Washington State on Dec. 5 at home, Tennessee on Dec. 29 in the fifth annual Battle in Seattle at KeyArena, and at Memphis on Jan. 26.

WSU defeated Gonzaga in Pullman last year to snap the Bulldogs' seven-game winning streak in the series.

Tennessee advanced to the Sweet 16 last year. And it will be the third time Gonzaga has played Memphis, which made the Elite Eight last season.

The Zags were undone last year partially by a difficult December schedule that produced wins over Texas and Washington, but losses to Washington State, Georgia, Duke and Nevada that knocked them out of the Top 25. December is looming as a difficult month again.

Following a Nov. 29 game at Saint Joseph's, the Zags play Connecticut in Boston on Dec. 1, and travel to Oklahoma on Dec. 20. In addition to the Washington State and Tennessee games, they host Utah on Dec. 31 and Georgia on Jan. 5.

Also on the home schedule are Montana, Idaho and California-Riverside.

The Bulldogs have won or shared seven straight West Coast Conference regular-season titles. They have also made nine straight trips to the NCAA tournament.

Heytvelt was suspended from the team late last season because of drug possession. Gonzaga then lost at home for the first time in the 3-year history of the McCarthey Athletic Center and also was knocked out of the NCAA tournament in the first round by Indiana.

The team said recently that Heytvelt completed the community service portion of his penalty and was on track to be reinstated. But no decision had been made and no date set for that.

The 6-foot-11 center from Clarkston averaged more than 15 points a game and led the team with 7.7 rebounds a game last season.

Copyright 2007 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

U of M Coach Starts Exchange Program

U of M coach starts exchange program
By Dan Wolken
Thursday, September 20, 2007

John Calipari's mission, in his first seven years as University of Memphis basketball coach, has been to establish the Tigers as a national program.

Now, Calipari is working to expand the borders.

Calipari was in Beijing, China, on Wednesday for a news conference announcing a five-year partnership between the UofM and the Chinese Basketball Association for a coaches' exchange program. The exchange will begin this fall when 15 Chinese coaches come to Memphis and observe roughly two weeks of practices. Calipari and his staff will travel to China annually to conduct coaching clinics and youth camps.

Additionally, one Chinese coach will stay in Memphis each year and serve as an intern for the Tigers, and Calipari said he's discussed the possibility of bringing his team to China in May for a series of games against its national team.

"They're going to see 10 or 11 practices," Calipari said by phone from Beijing. "We'll let them see the strength program, the video stuff, how we operate, and they're going to do the zoo, Graceland, all those kinds of things. The greatest thing is, with our style of play, and with our system, it translates. I'm hoping they go back to China and it's what they start talking about, what they start teaching and how they start coaching."

Calipari said he was inspired to make the Asian connection after reading an article by New York Times columnist William Rhoden on the popularity of the NBA in China. Though 300 million Chinese watch the NBA, Calipari said, they have not been exposed to NCAA basketball, mainly because their top players have not gone to American colleges.

So what better time to expose the country to Memphis, he said, than when the Tigers are anticipating a No. 1 preseason ranking?

"I was trying to figure out, how do I keep this thing going? Where's the next market, the next thing to break through for us?" Calipari said. "It's hard where we are. We're non-BCS. We're not in one of those leagues, and we're in rarefied air. How do we stay here, what's the next place to explore?

"Would this (relationship) ever get to the point where it includes players? Boy, I hope so. We're trying to build a bridge between the university, our athletic department, our program and China."

Calipari said this initiative fits well with the UofM's goal to build a larger base of Asian students, which is why provost Dr. Ralph Faudree and Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau president Kevin Kane, as well as two UofM alums from China, Robert Wang and C.J. Liu, accompanied him to the news conference.

-- Dan Wolken: 529-2365

From - Univ of Memphis Invites 15 Chinese Coaches for Training

Univ. of Memphis invites 15 Chinese coaches for training
2007-09-20 13:54:31

BEIJING, Sept. 20 (Xinhua) -- Former Bayi Rockets star guard Zhang Jinsong and his new coaching colleagues from the Chinese Basketball Association league (CBA) were invited by the University of Memphis for an NCAA pre-season inspection and training here on Thursday.

Fifteen Chinese young coaches will have a 10-day journey in Memphis from October 8-19 with one of them having chance to become an assistant coach for the Memphis Tigers, one of the NCAA top eight teams last season.

The CBA and the Univ. Memphis made the cooperation annually and75 Chinese coaches in total will benefit from the program.

"I know the head coach of Tigers is Mr. John Calipari, a successful coach both in the NCAA and in the NBA. I'm looking forward to watching his training and matches," said Zhang, 37, who led the Bayi Rockets back to the top of the CBA after three-year absence last season before he retired.

As part of the program, Calipari is expected to hold clinic in China and the Memphis Tigers will have warm-ups with the Chinese national team in May of 2008.

"This is a precious chance for Chinese young coaches. They willl earn the essence of American college basketball," Houston Rockets center Yao Ming was quoted as saying in the press release of the news conference in Beijing.

LeBrone James, Cleveland Caveliers guard, was also quoted as saying, that "It's a good idea to bring Chinese coaches to the United States for training. Their efforts will pay off when more and more coaches and talented players benefit from their work".

Editor: Sun Yunlong

Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy - Calipari to Help Chinese Players Get In the Flow

Calipari to help Chinese players get in the flow
By Mike DeCourcy, Sporting News
Posted September 22, 2007

Let's be honest about this: If John Calipari somehow can find a way to make this China deal about the Memphis Tigers -- which sort of equates to making it about John Calipari -- he certainly will.

With the University of Memphis forging an association with the Chinese Basketball Association, Calipari would love for that relationship to evolve in the direction of the world's most populous nation serving as another source of basketball talent for the team he coaches.

If this only were about the Tigers building a new pipeline, though, it never would have happened.

China wants to improve its basketball players. That's why this deal came about. Although Yao Ming and a few other big men have reached the NBA, China has had no success developing perimeter players. As I wrote back in June before the NBA draft, the sluggish progress of gifted 7-foot forward Yi Jianlian was bound to lead the Chinese to reconsider the manner in which their players were being trained.

At 16, Yi was considered one of the world's most exciting prospects - gaining more attention, even, than American center Greg Oden. Since then, Oden turned his wealth of talent into a package of dominance that led him to become the No. 1 overall pick in the NBA draft, and Kevin Durant sprouted into a thrilling prospect whose name was called directly after Oden's. Yi was stuck on the board through three more picks until the Milwaukee Bucks gambled they could sign him.

Yi still might grow into a great player, but he's so big, nimble and skilled that there should be no uncertainty. This is where Memphis comes in. Seven Chinese coaches are expected to visit the Mid-South to observe early Tigers practices and to learn the basics of the Dribble Drive Motion offense Calipari borrowed from Pepperdine's Vance Walberg.

Calipari called from China the other day to talk about how excited he was to have a chance to influence the way the game is being played in the world's most populous nation. "For me, the pie in the sky is to have an impact on how they're teaching basketball in China," Calipari said. "Can you imagine that for a kid from Moon Township?"

Calipari sees his offense as being ideal for a team playing under FIBA rules, as they do in the Chinese Basketball Association and as China would in the Olympics or World Championships.

Certainly there are problems with the manner in which players currently are developed here. The summer club/AAU model overemphasizes competitive activity and minimizes time spent learning skills. NCAA rules overly regulate the amount of time coaches can spend helping players progress.

Where the U.S. has an advantage over every other country is obvious, though: The best coaches and the best players are here. Those young players who do compete in NCAA basketball get the opportunity to learn how to fill roles and perform under pressure in games that matter. If Yi had spent three years in a U.S. prep school and one season playing in the Pac-10 or ACC -- or, sorry about that, Conference USA -- he'd have been a much more advanced prospect by June 2007.

Getting Chinese players into U.S. colleges will be tricky because of the challenge of translating their academic records through the NCAA clearinghouse and because, like in many European countries, young amateur players in China can be commingled with "pros" on club teams. The NCAA has convinced itself this is different than when U.S. players team up with pros in summer league games. But Calipari points out that China has more English-speaking citizens than nearly any country in the world, so some aspects of moving here to play will be smooth.

"Will this turn into players coming over?" he said. "If it does for me, it will for others. It's not that Cal is going to own China."

He does like the idea of being first in line, though. Gary Parish - Maybe It's Time to Lock Players Up for the Weekend

Maybe it's time to lock players up for the weekend
Sep. 21, 2007
By Gary Parrish Senior Writer

The weekend is upon us.

So you know what that means, right?

Yep, we are probably less than 48 hours from some college basketball player getting into some seriously stupid legal trouble, if recent history is any indication. That has been the trend lately, you know. Seems like every Monday morning produces a story about a hooper getting arrested, which has in turn made these offseason weekends something coaches should fear like early foul trouble.

Thank God it's Friday?

These days it's more like Oh God, it's Friday.

"At this juncture, we will let the judicial process run its course before determining what disciplinary action is necessary. We have built a successful program at Pitt, on and off the court, by prioritizing personal accountability and responsibility. We will not compromise when it comes to those values."

That's the statement Pittsburgh coach Jamie Dixon released last Sunday after his starting point guard, Levance Fields, was arrested outside a club and charged with aggravated assault, disarming a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct and public drunkenness. The incident came exactly two weeks after Memphis coach John Calipari held a press conference on a Sunday after two of his reserves, Jeff Robinson and Shawn Taggart, were arrested outside a club and charged with inciting a riot and disorderly conduct.

Fields allegedly punched a cop and tried to grab his gun.

Robinson allegedly cursed the cops and charged at one with balled fists.

Taggart allegedly yelled "F--- the police" in a way only Ice Cube could truly appreciate.

(On a completely unrelated note, how wild is it that the man who once wrote "F--- tha Police" for NWA is now starring in kid movies? It's either the biggest sellout or maturation of all-time. Perhaps both.)

Anyway, Fields was Tasered and Robinson was Maced, and I'm not sure how this kind of stuff happens. Some will argue it is simply the result of staying out late, drinking and hanging in clubs, but that's not really true. As a man who has stayed out late (too many times), drank (way too much) and hung in clubs (far too often until they closed), I can honestly tell you I have never been Maced or Tasered.

In fact, I have never so much as seen anybody get Maced or Tasered and would have no idea what it even looks or sounds like if not for the YouTube video of the University of Florida campus police Tasering that student at a John Kerry speech.

(Note to Billy Donovan: Keep your players away from the campus police!)

In other words, these are not cases of kids just being kids or boys just being boys. These are cases of people just being stupid. Take Duquesne's Stuard Baldonado getting arrested this month for allegedly smoking marijuana on a street corner. But this wasn't any street corner, mind you. It was a street corner just down the street from the street corner where Baldonado was arrested five days earlier and charged with criminal conspiracy involving the manufacture, delivery or possession of a controlled substance. Seems like if you get hit with drug charges outside some place, you probably ought to find a new place to smoke weed, but maybe I'm crazy.

Meanwhile, a North Dakota State College of Science basketball player named Touhomi Ghazoul has been charged with theft of property for allegedly using a school telephone credit card number to make more than $10,000 worth of unauthorized calls. Call me sexist, but any college student talking on the phone that much needs his man-card revoked, or at least a cell phone with a decent plan and unlimited minutes.

So what do we have here?

We have basketball players getting arrested for all sorts of different things that are all rooted in exactly the same thing: stupidity.

Trying to take a cop's gun? Stupid.

Charging a cop with balled fists? Stupid.

Yelling "F--- the police" at the police, smoking weed on a street corner in total view of everybody and using a credit card number to make $10,000 worth of unauthorized calls that can easily be traced back to you? Stupid, stupid and incredibly stupid.

I can tolerate such stupidity from O.J. and Britney, but not from the student-athletes I spend my days writing about. So my challenge to the college basketball world is for me to be able to sit at my desk Monday morning, scan headlines and ultimately mumble to myself, "Man, nobody got arrested for something really, really stupid this weekend! How about that!"

In other words, if you must smoke weed, smoke weed at home (or at least indoors).

And if you must make a long distance phone call, borrow somebody's cell phone.

And if you must fight, fight somebody other than the police.

Fight each other.

Fight a civilian.

I don't care you who you fight, just make sure it's not a cop. Because fighting cops -- or even acting like you might be interested in fighting cops -- never works out in your favor. It instead leads to Sunday statements and press conferences, and haven't we had enough of those already?

Friday, September 21, 2007

Cal Looking to Take Tigers to China in May 2008

Tigers hope to play game in China
ESPN's Andy Katz Weblog
Thursday, September 20, 2007

Memphis coach John Calipari began his season-long plan for exposure in China this week in Beijing. Next May, the Tigers will play multiple exhibition games in China against the national team and possibly other professional teams.

That's his plan. And even if a few of the Tigers players -- like freshman Derrick Rose, junior Chris Douglas-Roberts or senior Joey Dorsey -- are involved in NBA draft workouts, he's sure they'll accompany the team to China and play in the games.

How certain is he?

"Trust me, they'll want to play; their agents will make them play," Calipari said Thursday morning by phone from Beijing. "LeBron James and Tracy McGrady have almost as much merchandise sold in China as the United States. There are $1.3 billion people here, 300 million watch the NBA."

Calipari called Thursday because he couldn't contain his excitement for this new venture to increase exposure about the Memphis Tigers and college basketball, as evident by Thursday morning's New York Times article on the same subject.

Calipari went to Beijing this week with Memphis provost Dr. Ralph Faudree and Kevin Kane, the CEO of the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The plan is to bring in a delegation of Chinese coaches, as many as 15 of them, to watch Memphis practice in October and then one of the coaches will stay with the Tigers throughout their attempt to win the national title this season. Calipari will also conduct coaching clinics in China over the next five years.

Ultimately, Calipari wants Memphis games this season, at least a few of them, to be shown on Chinese television. He's also hoping that all of the trade in information can lead him to a player or two to return to Memphis. He said this venture had nothing to do with the Memphis Grizzlies or the NBA.

And then, after the season, he is hoping to take the Tigers to China for a May trip.

"They've never seen an NCAA game here," said Calipari.

Is he surprised that no other coach has thought to do something like this?

"It would have to be someone as crazy as me that would get on a plane for 14 hours in the middle of recruiting and then figure out who to contact in a communist government. Good luck," Calipari said. "A couple of Chinese kids have gone out the back door to prep schools, but they're not the best players."

Given the current climate of the NCAA's stance toward foreign students and the rigorous standards that the athletes have to pass through (they can't be on a team back home that has a pro on it for them to be eligible for college, let alone the paperwork piles that have to be sifted through to get a player eligible). But that's another matter and Calipari will deal with it if it becomes applicable.

"If we can get a Chinese player & oh my gosh," Calipari said. "This will be a great thing for our players in our program to be recognized in China."

So if that's the case, then Calipari has something to hold over Rose, Douglas-Roberts and Dorsey and Co., when he returns, considering he flew halfway around the globe to eventually help their jersey sales.

"Whoever comes here, maybe that coach will someday be the [Chinese] Olympic coach and help teach their young kids," Calipari said. "Our system of play is a European fit with what we're trying to do."

That style is essentially, according to Calipari, a European style with Princeton additions.

"It's a dribble, drive motion instead of five passes before you shoot," said Calipari, who adapted the system from Pepperdine coach Vance Walberg. "We'd like to get three or four dives before we shoot against a good team; one against a bad team."

Calipari and Walberg conducted a clinic in Mississippi a few weeks ago with more than an estimated 400 high school coaches. Calipari also had Larry Brown and Del Harris, who was the Chinese Olympic coach in 2004, at the clinic as well.

Meanwhile, Calipari said Rose still needs to catch up learning the system. The team had its first team practice (under NCAA rules that was allowed for two hours a week beginning last Saturday) and Rose still isn't on the same page as everyone else. But Calipari said, "He's going to be good. He's really, really fast." Calipari also said Willie Kemp's perimeter shooting and Douglas-Roberts' overall play have been the most impressive things of note so far for the possible preseason No. 1 team.

The players should be getting more sleep, too, since Calipari instituted a curfew following the arrests of Shawn Taggart and Jeff Robinson last month for a disorderly conduct and inciting a riot charge at a Memphis nightclub. The players are due in court Sept. 25.

The curfew is set for 11 p.m. weeknights and midnight on the weekend. He said one of the coaches is checking every player's room each night to ensure they're adhering to the rules, which also include no clubbing.

"They know, they don't want to be the first guy to violate that or go into a club," Calipari said.

Calipari will return from China over the weekend. He said once he's back, he has to do one more recruiting task and then it's "all basketball."

Dickie V's Preseason Top 40 (Memphis #2)

Preseason Top 40
By Dick Vitale

(Editor's note: Due to Alabama guard Ronald Steele's decision to redshirt this season, the All-Rolls Royce team was updated on September 19.)

The summer is just about over and it is time to get ready for the 2007-08 college hoops season. Wow, it is going to be awesome, baby with a capital A!

With that in mind, I used the VBDI (Vitale Bald Dome Index) to come up with my preseason rankings. I am going from number 40 all the way up to numero uno, the team I am picking to cut down the nets in San Antonio. So here we go…


1. North Carolina: Roy Williams has to be thrilled to have Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington all returning. Deon Thompson will step up big-time in place of Brandan Wright up front.

2. Memphis: After back-to-back trips to the Elite Eight, John Calipari's team is ready to move to national championship contention. Chris Douglas-Roberts will have a phenomenal season.

3. Louisville: Rick Pitino will have national championship aspirations with this club. David Padgett has to stay healthy.

4. Georgetown: Even without Jeff Green (now a Sonic), John Thompson III has a solid squad, led by big man Roy Hibbert. The addition of diaper dandies to strengthen the backcourt is a positive.

5. UCLA: Darren Collison will be the maestro man, leading a very good club. Ben Howland welcomes the premier high school player of the year in Kevin Love, and he will provide an immediate impact up front.

6. Kansas: Rock, chalk, Jayhawk will be celebrating another super season. This is a deep and talented Bill Self-led team. A key will be the health of Brandon Rush.

7. Michigan State: Look for big things from Drew Neitzel and Raymar Morgan as Tom Izzo has the team to beat in the Big Ten. The Izzone will be rocking and rolling, baby!

8. Indiana: Kelvin Sampson is thrilled to have diaper dandy Eric Gordon, and the newcomer will make a difference right out of the blocks. DJ White has to have a strong season.

9. Tennessee: Bruce Pearl has brought energy and enthusiasm to Rocky Top. Chris Lofton spurned the NBA and returned to Knoxville, and the addition of Tyler Smith is a major plus.

10. Oregon: Ernie Kent has a veteran nucleus returning. Even without Aaron Brooks, this will be a tough team to beat out west.

11. Marquette: Tom Crean was thrilled when Dominic James pulled out of the draft and returned to school.

12. Duke: Coach K's team was plagued by injuries in the off-season, but when the bell rings, never count the Dukies out.

13. Stanford: It helps to have the Lopez twins in the lineup.

14. Texas: No Kevin Durant, but AJ Abrams, DJ Augustin and company can flat out play.

15. Kentucky: Billy Gillispie will have this program firing on all cylinders. The addition of Patrick Patterson will help.

16. Washington State: The Cougars won't sneak up on anybody this season.

17. USC: OJ Mayo and friends will rock and roll. Tim Floyd would have had a top 10 team if Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young came back; they didn't.

18. Syracuse: Jim Boeheim has a lot of talent in his incoming class.

19. Clemson: Forget about last year's collapse as Oliver Purnell has a strong squad.

20. Florida: No Noah, Horford, Brewer, Green or Humphrey, but Billy Donovan will reload with a lot of young talent.

21. Arkansas: John Pelphrey takes over and the return of Patrick Beverley makes a difference.

22. Ohio State: No Oden, Conley, Cook, but Thad Matta has a lot of new and talented faces ready for action.

23. Gonzaga: Mark Few will play anyone, any place, any time. His team will be prepared.

24. Pittsburgh: Jamie Dixon doesn't have true superstars, he has team players that work hard and flat-out win.

25. Mississippi State: Rick Stansbury has a lot of depth and some momentum after a strong NIT showing.

26. Kansas State: Bob Huggins is gone but the expectations are high with Michael Beasley leading the way.

27. Arizona: Chase Budinger has some help with 6-3 newcomer Jerryd Bayless.

28. Notre Dame: Cheer, cheer for old Notre Dame. Mike Brey wakes up the echoes.

29. Villanova: Scottie Reynolds can flat-out play as Jay Wright's team is solid.

30. Texas A&M: Mark Turgeon takes over and inherits a Big 12 contender.

31. Alabama: Ronald Steele has decided to redshirt this season.

32. Virginia: Dave Leitao is thrilled to have Sean Singletary back.

33. Connecticut: Jim Calhoun's team will improve thanks to a season of experience. Last year's squad was very young and mistake-prone.

34. Washington: Jon Brockman leads the way as Lorenzo Romar wonders what would have been if Spencer Hawes came back.

35. NC State: Sidney Lowe will build something special in Raleigh. They will miss Mr. Atsur but you can expect big things from Brandon Costner.

36. Texas Tech: Never count out the General, Robert Montgomery Knight. Martin Zeno will impress this season.

37. Georgia Tech: Paul Hewitt would have had a top 15 team if Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton returned. There is talent and the return of Lewis Clinch will help.

38. Providence: Tim Welsh very quietly has assembled a nice squad, including Geoff McDermott and Sharaud Curry.

39. Xavier: I love the backcourt of Stanley Burrell and Drew Lavender as Sean Miller has the team to watch in the A-10.

40. Southern Illinois: Chris Lowery's team can play defense and the Salukis are 78-26 over the last three seasons. Randal Falker leads the way.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

ESPN's Andy Katz - Memphis, UNC and Tennessee Earn As (In Scheduling)

Memphis, UNC and Tennessee earn As
By Andy Katz
Updated: September 19, 2007

Last I checked, Nevada still was looking for a game. But for most of the nation, the schedules are done.

We're not going to break down all 300-plus. That would be, let's just say, a bit insane. So, don't be offended if your team isn't here. This is rather a look at the top-10 teams from my pre-preseason Top 25, a few teams that will be outside the top 10 and a glance at teams that might be on the bubble come March.

Let's see how they did in their attempt to set themselves up for a possible NCAA bid or a higher seed, in the part of the schedule the NCAA Tournament selection committee says is in their control (that means conference games are off limits here).

First game: Nov. 5 in the 2K College Hoops Classic (TBD) in Memphis

Taking chances: Coach John Calipari never passes up going to New York. Playing in the 2K College Hoops Classic with Kentucky, Connecticut and Oklahoma (Nov. 15-16) is a quality affair. Accepting an invitation to play USC (Dec. 4) in the Jimmy V at MSG is another hot ticket item.

Home slate: This might be the best home schedule of any high-profile team: Georgetown (Dec. 22), Arizona (Dec. 29), Gonzaga (Jan. 26) and Tennessee (Feb. 23). Are you serious? Some schools never get four nonconference home games like that in the same season. Season-ticket holders shouldn't complain one bit.

True road: There is one game and it's at Cincinnati (Dec. 19). That's not bad, considering the Bearcats are in the Big East and were, when the agreement was reached between the two schools, still coached by Bob Huggins.

Lower-profile games: Give Cal credit here. Playing Middle Tennessee State in Nashville (Dec. 15) and playing host to Pepperdine (Jan. 5) are good choices.

Grade: A all the way here for the way the Tigers' aggressively scheduled and weren't afraid to challenge a preseason top-three team.

First game: Nov. 9 versus Portland State

Tournament choice: The Bruins chose wisely in going to the CBE Classic (Nov. 19-20). UCLA will play Maryland on the first night and then either Missouri or Michigan State in Kansas City. Plenty of other teams are looking rather weak with their home tournaments. UCLA's decision to go neutral shows Ben Howland's willingness to be challenged early.

Conference decision: The Pac-10/Big 12 Series put Texas at Pauley (Dec. 2) in their scheduling agreement. That's good news for UCLA to get a home game and a quality opponent instead of, let's say, Colorado.

Wooden wild card: Gonzaga says it wanted to get into the Wooden but UCLA wasn't that interested. Well, UCLA chose Davidson, a decision that earns high praise here. Davidson will be a quality mid-major and playing in Anaheim (Dec. 8) should provide an entertaining matchup.

True road: Howland can't get rid of John Beilein. He regrettably agreed to play West Virginia home-and-home two years ago and then lost both games. Now, he still has to coach against Beilein, this time at Michigan (Dec. 22).

Home slate: Eh. George Washington (Nov. 28) should get the Bruins up and down and the season ticket holders do get Texas as part of the home slate. So that's all good, but the rest is all fodder for padding the win total, which is to be expected.

Grade: Solid B. Sure, the Pac-10 is the best conference in the country next season, so UCLA didn't have to go too crazy. But there is a chance that UCLA could play only one high-major team likely destined for the NCAA Tournament (Texas) if UCLA doesn't meet Michigan State in Kansas City.

North Carolina
First game: Nov. 14 versus Davidson in Charlotte

Tournament choice: The Tar Heels are off to Las Vegas (Nov. 23-24) where, unlike last year's Kansas-Florida game, there is no set marquee matchup. North Carolina has to beat Old Dominion, and Louisville must take out BYU, for the possible top-10 game. In one sense it's a real tournament, but it also leaves some doubt as to whether or not the Tar Heels get the Cards.

True road: Roy Williams has never shied away from going on the road. No other potential top-five team is taking as many true road games. North Carolina will play four straight on the road (six in a row away from Chapel Hill when including Las Vegas): at Ohio State in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (Nov. 28), at Kentucky (Dec. 1), at Penn (Dec. 4) and at Rutgers (Dec. 16).

Home slate: The Tar Heels didn't pour on the puff teams at all. UC Santa Barbara is a legit Big West title contender (Dec. 22), Nevada (Dec. 27) is still a threat in the WAC, and Kent State (Jan. 2) will be a viable champ in the MAC.

Grade: A, but for different reasons than Memphis. UNC didn't get as many high-profile schools on the slate, let alone at home. But taking four straight true road games is impressive, especially when the team is a veteran bunch that can handle such a trip. Playing Davidson yet again, especially this season, to open the schedule will be one of the tougher tests. And then going neutral to Las Vegas for a possible Louisville game makes this schedule one of the best.

First game: Nov. 9 versus Louisiana-Monroe

Tournament choice: Kansas is in the Jayhawk Invitational. What is this? Well, it's essentially three guarantee games against UMKC (Nov. 11), Washburn (Nov. 15) and Northern Arizona (Nov. 21) before facing Arizona (Nov. 25) in the Big 12/Pac-10 Challenge. That game was folded into the event.

True road: a At USC (Dec. 2) is a return game from last season. The Jayhawks play at Boston College (Jan. 5) in a return game, too. Kansas plays at Georgia Tech (Dec. 18). Playing three true road games at all high majors, even if BC is rebuilding, is still pretty good.

Home slate: DePaul (Dec. 8) is the best team that comes calling (with the exception of Arizona in the Jayhawk/Big 12/Pac-10 Series). Kansas plays its annual Kansas City game, too, against Ohio (Dec. 15). The rest of the games shouldn't be a problem.

Grade: B. The tournament, outside of Arizona, is rather weak. The road games will challenge the Jayhawks. The Big 12 isn't as deep top to bottom, though.

First game: Nov. 17 versus Hartford (as part of the Las Vegas Invitational)

Tournament choice: The Cards chose the Las Vegas tournament that might pit them against Carolina. Still, the Cards did pick up a road game at UNLV (Nov. 21) prior to the tournament' semifinal. That could prove dangerous (remember Michigan State's decision to play at Hawaii before the Maui Invitational? Not a good move). Drawing BYU (Nov. 23) won't be a walk, either.

Home/regional slate: Playing Purdue (Dec. 15) in the John Wooden Tradition in Indianapolis might be more like a home game for nearby Louisville fans. New Mexico State (Dec. 22) is the best team that's coming into Louisville. The rest of the games aren't going to wow anyone.

True road: UNLV is a nice add. Playing at Kentucky (Jan. 5) will be a monster matchup as always, especially in Billy Gillispie's first Commonwealth matchup with Rick Pitino.

Grade: Low B. And it wouldn't be out of the question to drop into the C status. Louisville might only play one NCAA team (Kentucky) if for some reason the Cards don't get Carolina in Las Vegas. If there is a certain matchup with UNC, then the grade improves.

First game: Nov. 10 versus William & Mary

True road: Once again the Hoyas get plenty of points for taking chances. Georgetown's John Thompson III kept his promise and will still play at Ball State (Nov. 21) despite his brother's charge that he resigned as head coach over a racially charged environment at the school. Georgetown returns to Old Dominion (Nov. 28). The Monarchs beat the Hoyas on G'town's campus last season. Playing at Memphis (Dec. 22) was a late pickup to the schedule. But once again that's a bold move by Georgetown to start this series on the road.

Out of their control: The Hoyas didn't have a choice and were sent to Birmingham to play Alabama in the Big East/SEC Invitational (Dec. 5). Originally, this looked like a tougher road game. But now that point Ronald Steele is out for the season, the Hoyas shouldn't be as challenged.

Home slate: If you're a Hoya season ticket holder, you might be a bit miffed by the nonconference schedule. The Hoyas play Michigan (Nov. 15), but the rest of the home games are just blah. That's OK for the Hoyas considering they have plenty to do on the road prior to the Big East. But the schedule isn't as enticing for those fans looking for high quality nonconference games.

Grade: High C. If the Hoyas weren't playing Memphis then this schedule certainly would take a hit. The Memphis game gets the Hoyas schedule at least a high C. Sure, there are plenty of road trips that are worth praising. But for a team that could be fighting for a top seed in March, there might be only one NCAA team in Memphis on the schedule. That won't help their chances.

Washington State
First game: Nov. 9 versus Eastern Washington

True road: The Cougars traditionally have had to play mid- to low-major road games. So, it's nothing new that Washington State is going to Boise State (Nov. 13) and Idaho State (Dec. 23). That's the reality for the Cougars. Not too many Top 25 teams are going to make a trip to Pullman. The Cougars weren't helped by its own conference when the Pac-10 sent them to Baylor (Nov. 30) for the Big 12/Pac-10 event. The Cougars are a preseason Top 10 team, and they didn't get one of the elite teams out of the Big 12. The best game by far is the road game at Gonzaga (Dec. 5). That's the only Top 25 game on their schedule.

Neutral: Washington State wants to play one game a season in Seattle. The best the Cougars could get was The Citadel (Dec. 20).

Tournament choice: Washington State got out of the Great Alaska Shootout, where possible games against Gonzaga, Texas Tech and Michigan were all looming. Washington State had a chance to play in the Legends event in Newark, N.J. with Texas, Tennessee and West Virginia. Instead, the Cougs chose to stay home and play host to the Hispanic College Fund tournament. On the surface, that's great to get three home games. But Air Force, Mississippi Valley State and Montana (Nov. 23-25) won't help the power rating as much as playing in one of those other events.

Grade: C. The Cougs are going on the road and that will help, assuming they win those games. But this is a veteran team with the ability to win anywhere in the country. Taking at least another chance somewhere would have helped. Of course, the Pac-10 is loaded, so WSU can hope that it will do well enough in league that the nonconference SOS won't hurt them as much. Still, WSU needed to harass the league office to ensure it would have had at the very least a marquee game in the series with the Big 12.

First game: Nov. 12 versus Chattanooga

True road: The Hoosiers are playing one game on an opponent's campus, at Southern Illinois (Dec. 1). This is only occurring because IU cut a football deal with SIU and folded in a basketball series.

Neutral: Indiana chose the Chicago Invitational. On the surface, the tournament looked like a walk, but look deeper and there is at least a potential hiccup or two. The Hoosiers will play host to Longwood (Nov. 18) and UNC Wilmington (Nov. 20). And then, presuming they make it to suburban Chicago, the Hoosiers have to face dangerous mid-major teams Illinois State (Nov. 23) and then either Xavier or Kent State (Nov. 24).

Home slate: The conference slated Indiana with Georgia Tech (Nov. 27) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. That's another bubble team considering the Yellow Jackets lost two first-round draft picks. Indiana does get two more marquee home games against Kentucky (Dec. 8) and Connecticut (Jan. 26) in ongoing home-and-home series. The rest of the games are of the guaranteed sort.

Grade: Solid B. Going on the road for another game would be nice, but the one true road game will be an extremely hostile environment in Carbondale, Ill., the Chicago event could be tougher than it seems if Illinois State is as good as those in the Valley project, and the home schedule is littered with big-name teams that should be in the NCAA discussion come March.

Michigan State
First game: Nov. 13 in the CBE Classic (TBD) in East Lansing, Mich.

True road: The Spartans are playing, like Indiana, just one true road game. They'll face Bradley (Dec. 4) in Peoria, Ill.

Neutral: Michigan State is loading up in this category with games in Kansas City (Nov. 19-20) against Missouri and then either Maryland or UCLA, against BYU (Dec. 8) in Salt Lake City (not Provo), and Texas (Dec. 22) in Auburn Hills, Mich.

Home slate: The conferences scheduled N.C. State for East Lansing (Nov. 28) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. None of the other true home games stand out. And while that might be disappointing for the season ticket holders, that's OK considering there are still quality teams on the schedule.

Grade: Tentative C since there are some unknowns on the schedule, like whether or not Michigan State will meet UCLA in Kansas City. Texas should be an NCAA team. But the rest of the folks are clearly not locks to make the field, not even N.C. State. So, we'll have to take a wait-and-see approach as to how many NCAA teams end up on this schedule.

First game: Nov. 9 versus Temple

True road: The Vols go to Chattanooga (Dec. 4), Xavier (Dec. 22) and Memphis (Feb. 23).

Neutral: Tennessee is in the Legends Classic in Newark, N.J. with Texas, West Virginia and New Mexico State (Nov. 23-24), heads to Nashville to play Western Kentucky (Dec. 15) and the monster matchup with Gonzaga in Seattle (Dec. 29). That's a total of seven games away from Knoxville. That's not too shabby at all for a top-10 program.

Home slate: If you're a season-ticket holder, then the Vols didn't give you much in terms of high-profile games. The best name among the seven home games is Temple.

Grade: A-minus. Bruce Pearl deserves plenty of credit for his willingness to take on the Gonzaga game when so many other teams passed on going to Seattle to play the Zags. This schedule ertainly will be challenging for a team that will need to be ready as the target once the SEC begins.

Teams likely to be ranked outside of the top 10

Arizona: Lute Olson doesn't need to protect this squad. He loves the marquee matchups. So, it shouldn't be a shock that there are plenty on this schedule at home -- Virginia (Nov. 17), Texas A&M (Dec. 2) in the Big 12/Pac-10 series and decent games against Fresno State (Dec. 16) and San Diego State (Dec. 22). But more impressive are the games away from Tucson -- at Kansas (Nov. 25), against Illinois in Chicago (Dec. 8), at UNLV (Dec. 19), at Memphis (Dec. 29) and at Houston (Jan. 12). There is plenty here for the Wildcats to be challenged and possibly have one of the top SOS's in March once the Pac-10 is factored.

Gonzaga: The Zags will have plenty of high-profile games yet again with Washington State (Dec. 5), Tennessee (Dec. 29) in Seattle, Connecticut (Dec. 1) in Boston, at Saint Joe's (Nov. 29), at Memphis (Jan. 26), against Oklahoma (Dec. 20) in Okalahoma City and the three games in the Great Alaska Shootout, beginning Nov. 22 against Western Kentucky in Anchorage. This schedule will provide the Zags with plenty of power-rating points. It will help that the WCC will be a bit better, especially Saint Mary's, but the Zags won't have to worry about much if they can at least hold their own in some of these marquee matchups.

Butler: The Bulldogs are the hot team to pick in the Horizon and the nonconference schedule should provide them with enough power-rating points again to be a viable at-large team. Butler is in the Great Alaska Shootout (Nov. 21-24) with a lock matchup against Michigan but with the possibility of facing Gonzaga. Playing Ohio State in Indianapolis (Dec. 1), Florida State (Dec. 15) in Conseco and a road trip to Southern Illinois (Dec. 28) help. There are five other true road games outside the conference. Even though they are mid- to low-major games, they are still on the road and that will help the RPI.

Arkansas: Ronald Steele's injury at Alabama makes Arkansas the chic pick in the SEC West. The Razorbacks are in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off and a possible matchup with Providence would benefit the Hogs (Nov. 15-18). Going to Oklahoma (Dec. 15) provides another possible NCAA team. Playing host to Missouri (Nov. 28) and Missouri State (Dec. 3) are solid home dates, but neither is a lock for the tournament. Playing Appalachian State in Little Rock (Dec. 22) is another good nonconference game, but won't turn too many heads in the selection committee room. This schedule needs more pop for the Hogs to be a lock if they get into any trouble in the SEC. The Hogs could have upgraded the schedule a bit more since there is not one game against a team you could say is definitely going to be in the field.

Possible bubble teams

Davidson's season ended at the hands of Maryland, but Stephen Curry & Co. will get their chance at the big boys this season.
N.C. State: The Wolfpack have a schedule that might help them get wins, but might not do enough for the power-rating points. They had no choice and got a high-profile road game in Michigan State (Nov. 28) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. And while the Wolfpack are playing road games -- at East Carolina (Dec. 8) and Seton Hall (Dec. 27) -- neither team will be close to NCAA or maybe even NIT worthy. The Wolfpack better hope it gets Villanova in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando (Nov. 25). The best game, outside of Michigan State, is maybe playing Davidson at home (Dec. 21).

Davidson: The Wildcats are doing all they can to improve their power-rating for a possible NCAA at-large berth. Playing Duke (Dec. 1) and North Carolina (Nov. 14) at the Bobcats Arena in Charlotte, as well as the N.C. State game and UCLA in the Wooden Classic game in Anaheim (Dec. 8) make Davidson a player in March. Now, if the Wildcats lose all of them, then they might not be as much of an at-large factor. But at least they should be credited for scheduling these games.

Florida: The defending national champs lost their top six players, so it's hard to fault Billy Donovan for going a bit light. The Gators' nonconference schedule doesn't have one team that you can say will be an NCAA team. But there are enough comparable teams on the slate like Florida State (Nov. 23) and a road game at Ohio State (Dec. 22) to keep the power-rating decent. Florida is playing four games away from Gainesville, Fla., but the other three besides Ohio State -- Vermont in Tampa (Nov. 30), Georgia Southern in Jacksonville (Dec. 15) and Temple in Sunrise (Dec. 29) -- shouldn't be too much of a sweat.

Ohio State: The Buckeyes, with a bit more returning talent, should be better than the Gators. So, it's no surprise Ohio State scheduled up more. Playing in the NIT Season Tip-Off could get Ohio State games with Washington, Texas A&M and Syracuse (or Saint Joe's) Nov. 21 and 23 in New York, drawing North Carolina in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge (Nov. 28) at home was a huge edge for the schedule and playing Butler in Indianapolis Dec. 1 is also a solid gamble. The Florida game will provide another test. Jotting up to Cleveland State (Dec. 18) for a mid-major road game is another decent way to test this group. This might be one of the best schedules of a team that isn't projected to be a lock for the tourney.

Wisconsin: The Badgers have plenty of hot spots on the schedule with games at Duke (Nov. 27) in the ACC-Big Ten Challenge, Texas (Dec. 29) and home games against Georgia (Nov. 24) and Marquette (Dec. 8). Wisconsin is also continuing to play mid-majors on the road. They're going to UW-Milwaukee (Dec. 12). There is plenty here for the Badgers to help their SOS come March.

Texas: The beauty of Rick Barnes, outside of his quick wit, is his willingness to play anyone at anytime. Texas is in the Legends Classic in Newark (Nov. 23-24) with Tennessee, West Virginia and New Mexico State. Texas is also playing Michigan State (Dec. 22) in Auburn Hills, Mich., playing host to Wisconsin (Dec. 29), playing UCLA (Dec. 2) in the Big 12/Pac-10 event. In addition, the Longhorns welcome a possible NCAA team in Saint Mary's (Jan. 5). This is more than enough to get Texas in the good graces of the committee.

Kansas State: Frank Martin will have his hands full, but that's a good thing. Kansas State will give itself an opportunity to make the tourney with this schedule, playing in the Old Spice Classic (Nov. 22-25) against George Mason and then either Central Florida or Villanova in the second game. K-State clearly was placed in the tougher bracket. Playing Oregon at home in the Big 12/Pac-10 series is a huge get (Nov. 29) since the Ducks are a likely NCAA Tournament team. Getting Cal in a return game from a year ago (Dec. 9) is another possible NCAA team. Going to Xavier (Dec. 31) adds another NCAA-type team and going to New York for the Jimmy V against Notre Dame (Dec. 4) is yet another possible NCAA game prior to the Big 12.

Southern Illinois: Chris Lowery tried to get quality games but couldn't manage many. He still did get into the ESPN tournament in Anaheim (Nov. 23-25) with a possible date against USC. Playing Indiana at home (Dec. 1) through a football agreement is huge for this program. Going to Saint Louis (Dec. 15), and playing host to Saint Mary's (Dec. 11), Western Kentucky (Dec. 22) and Butler (Dec. 28) gives the Salukis a few games against possible NCAA teams.

VCU: Anthony Grant struggled, like Lowery, to get quality games off previous NCAA success. Still, VCU is in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18) that includes a possible matchup with Miami in the second round after a game with Houston. Playing Maryland in D.C. at the BB&T (Dec. 2) is a quality, power-rating game. But that's it. The Rams do go to Hampton (Nov. 29) and Bradley (Dec. 22), but neither team is expected to be in the tourney.

Saint Joseph's: If there is one team that could upset the NIT Season Tip-Off plan of having Syracuse, Washington, Texas A&M and Ohio State in New York it is Saint Joe's. Syracuse was the only one of the four host teams that has a legit contender to beat it in the first two games. The Hawks likely would play Syracuse (Nov. 13) if it beats Fairleigh Dickinson. Saint Joe's could get plenty of power points in New York if it advances. But the Hawks also have quality games against Gonzaga (Nov. 29), at Creighton (Dec. 9) and, of course, the Big Five game against Villanova (Feb. 4) at the Palestra. The Hawks play six games outside Philadelphia with the possibility of two more if they get to New York.

Providence: The Friars are a trendy NCAA pick, but the schedule could have been better. PC plays in the Puerto Rico Tip-Off (Nov. 15-18) and playing Arkansas in the second round would help. The Friars will also travel for games against BC in Boston (Dec. 1), at URI (Dec. 4) and against South Carolina (Dec. 6) in Philadelphia in the Big East/SEC Invitational. Florida State comes to Providence Dec. 22. There isn't one team on the schedule that you're certain will be in the field. Depending on what happens in the Big East, this could be an issue come selection time.

Andy Katz is a senior writer at - Comments on Teams With Best Odds to Win National Championship

Is a hardwood three-peat in Florida's future?
09/19/2007 10:39 AM
By: Chance Harper |

With college gridiron campaigns less than a month old, it's difficult to start focusing on hoops action across campuses. But college basketball aficionados are already getting the itch with the season less than two months away, and preseason prognosticators are already asking if Florida can with a third straight crown.
Let’s give a cheer for the Orange and Blue. The Florida Gators have one of the best athletic programs in the country, regularly finishing in the Top 10 in just about every sport outside of Aussie rules football. That includes back-to-back national championships in men’s basketball -- the first team to double up since Duke in 1991-92.

Can the Gators make it three in a row? Don’t bet on it.

The main reason Florida was able to repeat was that the entire starting rotation decided to come back to school for one more year. Now they’re all gone. Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah were all chosen in the Top 10 of this summer’s NBA draft; Taurean Green went in the second round, and Lee Humphrey graduated. The Gators even lost sixth man Chris Richard to the draft, leaving the program in heavy rebuilding mode and 75-1 on the futures market to complete an unlikely three-peat.

Trying to nail down this year’s preseason favorite will not be easy. The North Carolina Tar Heels have the shortest odds at 5-1, followed closely by UCLA at 6-1 and the Big East powers from Georgetown and Louisville at 8-1. North Carolina had a sour ending to their March Madness experience, fading late in the second half and getting blown out in overtime by Georgetown in the Elite Eight, but this year’s Heels are a year older and wiser. You’d have to hunt high and low to find a trio of college players more talented than Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and Wayne Ellington.

UCLA and Georgetown both remain in the mix for the championship, but the Bruins won’t be as potent without Arron Afflalo, and the Hoyas, while grateful to retain the services of Roy Hibbert, watched Jeff Green head to the NBA rather than return for his senior year.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, are crashing the party after two injury-plagued seasons. Louisville did manage to finish third in the Big East standings last year at 12-4 (24-10 SU overall, 17-11-2 ATS), and with all seven of their top scorers coming back for coach Rick Pitino, the Cards have to be considered ahead of Georgetown for a trip to the Final Four.

But let’s not be too hasty to hand the title to any of these elite teams. When the preseason rankings come out in November, don’t be surprised when you see the Memphis Tigers in the No. 1 spot. John Calipari’s squad often gets overlooked by casual fans, which is what happens when you play in Conference USA. Yet despite having the No. 75-ranked strength of schedule in the nation last season, Memphis still finished No. 8 on the RPI list and reached the Elite Eight for the second year in a row.

That won’t be enough this time. Not only are the Tigers emulating Florida by bringing back their full starting lineup, Calipari’s recruiting acumen has also landed Memphis a tremendous freshman haul. The Class of 2007 includes one of the top recruits in the country, point guard Derrick Rose from Simeon Career Academy in Chicago. Rose is a superstar in the making, a possible top pick in the 2008 NBA draft and a big part of the Tigers’ title hopes at 10-1.

Calipari proves year after year that attracting talented players to your program is just as important as the actual coaching part of the job description. That’s why fans in Lexington are singing the praises of Billy Gillispie, who takes over the coaching reins of the Kentucky Wildcats from underappreciated Tubby Smith. The two-time Big 12 Coach of the Year led the Texas A&M Aggies into the Top 10 last year on the strength of his recruiting.

By snaring highly-touted power forward Patrick Patterson from Huntington High School in West Virginia -- ahead of both Duke and Florida -- Gillispie has Kentucky at 20-1 to win it all this year. Texas A&M slips to 70-1 under Mark Turgeon, who proved his coaching acumen by leading mid-major Wichita State to the Sweet 16 two years ago, but has yet to establish himself as a top recruiter.

Indy Star Columnist Bob Kravitz on Former Tiger and Current Indiana Pacer Shawne Williams Columnists Bob Kravitz
September 16, 2007
Bob Kravitz

Give Pacers' Williams a break -- this time

He's a kid.

Shawne Williams, the Pacers' properly repentant second-year player whose minor brush with the law created last week's now-annual pre-camp firestorm, is a kid.
A kid who has seen a lifetime's worth of terrible things, seen his older brother brought down by gunfire two years ago, seen too much of life's hardships in the South Memphis neighborhood where he grew up.

And that's the thing we've got to remember before he gets lumped in there with Ron Artest and Stephen Jackson and the other Pacers who've had brushes with the law.
Those are older players. They've had time to learn the delicate art of staying true to their roots while keeping trouble at arm's length. By now, they ought to know better.

For Williams, 21, who went pro after just his freshman year at the University of Memphis, this is all quite new. And he's been forced to learn lessons, tough lessons, that players from more stable, economically advantageous backgrounds never have to learn.

"I've always felt the hardest thing for these kids who grow up in tough neighborhoods is knowing when, where and how they can be with the people they grew up with,'' said Derek Kellogg, a University of Memphis assistant coach. "At some point, they've got to make that separation. And it's hard because those are the people who cared about you and knew you when you were young. Those are your friends. You don't want to leave those people behind, but it's hard being a millionaire and being out in a tough neighborhood.

"Because if you're not careful, those people can put you in a bad situation.''

Was that the case with Williams this past week?

Well, sort of.

Those were friends from his father's side of the family. Williams said Friday he was not aware of the presence of marijuana or a stolen gun in the car. It should be noted, the marijuana charge against Williams was dropped.

Whatever happened, it's not exactly the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby.

Let it go.

Seriously, let it go.

And understand, the Pacers handled it perfectly, the way they should have handled previous missteps by assorted players, quickly suspending him for three games. And Williams himself handled it like a pro, accepting responsibility, stepping out in front of the media Friday on his own accord.

He may be a kid, but Friday, he looked and sounded like an adult.

"I look at where I'm at now and where I was back then,'' he said the other day. "And I sure don't want to go back there. I'm a pro ballplayer now and I've got to separate myself from some people because I know some of them are bringing trouble.
"You're around people 17, 18 years, that's all you know. A lot of them aren't doing the right things, but they're the ones who supported you. But now I've got to keep them away. I can still talk to them, but they've got to know, if they're doing wrong, it's my face showing up in the newspapers, and it's me and the team that's getting embarrassed. It's like coach Cal (Memphis' John Calipari) used to say, 'Just smile and say, hey.' "

Who thinks to stop and ask passengers if they're carrying a stolen firearm?

Williams does.

Now, he does.

For so many professional athletes, there is a perplexing duality to their existence. They come from neighborhoods ravaged by drugs and violence and poverty, and they ascend to a life of great riches and privilege.

Where, then, do they belong? There is a fine line, an elusive line, between keeping it real and, as my friend Jason Whitlock likes to call it, "keeping it real stupid.'' Sometimes a young athlete has difficulty establishing that line of demarcation. Sometimes, there are mistakes in judgment.

That is not an excuse.

But an explanation.

Listen, I've never been comfortable with the notion that athletes from rough neighborhoods and unstable families should be held to a different standard of comportment. Right is right and wrong is wrong, whether you grow up in Carmel or Indy's Eastside. There is something to be said for what I've heard described as the "soft bigotry of lowered expectations.''

One of the finest athletes/people I've ever known is Laphonso Ellis, the former Notre Dame and NBA star. He grew up in gritty East St. Louis. There are scores of young men (and women, too) who have emerged from the harshest circumstances and become terrific human beings who give back to their old communities.

Now, having said that, we need to understand that when I go back to my old cushy New York suburb, I return to a different planet than does Williams or Artest or Jackson. I am generally not surrounded by drugs or guns or unemployment or random violence. I don't have to make hard choices about the company I keep.

"There was just so much stuff going on off the court, it was easy to make that left turn instead of the right,'' Williams said. "So many people coming around, unemployed, doing the wrong things. It's really hard to stay focused on what you've got to do to get out of there."

Well, now he's out. And he's got a taste for how quickly it can all go wrong. He's a kid and kids learn. Something tells me he already has.

Bob Kravitz is a columnist for The Indianapolis Star. Call him at (317) 444-6643 or e-mail

Coaches Clinic Draws Crowd

Coaches clinic draws crowd
By Dan Wolken
Sunday, September 16, 2007

Vance Walberg was standing in the lobby of the Grand Casino Resort convention center, talking about basketball and his surreal journey from anonymity to maharishi when he spotted a former rival coach from the California high school ranks.

They stopped and chatted for a few minutes, talking about common friends and old times in a comfortable moment that seemed to bring Walberg's rise to stardom full circle.

Just a few short years ago, Walberg would have been just as likely as his old friend to be among the roughly 400 coaches attending a clinic in Tunica, Miss., waiting to absorb words of wisdom from the likes of University of Memphis coach John Calipari, Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy and longtime NBA coach Del Harris.

And yet this weekend, there was Walberg, entering his second year as head coach at Pepperdine, co-starring with Calipari at the first adidas Mid-South Coaches Clinic and sharing his ideas with basketball icon Larry Brown during a 70-minute walk, which, with all due respect to his wife, might have been among the best 70 minutes of his life.

"It's weird," Walberg said. "Five years ago, I'm coaching high school. That's all I really ever wanted to coach. And then now the way this has evolved, it's kind of crazy."

Crazy, in many ways, is an understatement for what things have been like for Walberg ever since Calipari helped expose the country to the "Attack, Attack, Skip, Attack, Attack" offense by using it to win 66 games the past two seasons. Inundated by phone calls from coaches at all levels, Calipari put together the Tunica clinic this weekend, which is simply a larger version of what Walberg has done several times on the West Coast recently.

"Last year, we had 255, 260 coaches at my own clinic," Walberg said. "Then I do another clinic in Sacramento. I try to get two, three in the fall and two, three in the spring. The worst part is how many people call, e-mail and say, 'Hey, do you mind telling me about it?' And you just can't get it in a half-hour or an hour. It's going to take you -- kind of like what I did when I visited Cal -- you have to sit there for four, five, six days. For a lot of them, it's like a foreign language. Unless they really come and study it they're going to have a tough time."

And Walberg, who developed his system as a high school coach in Fresno, is clearly gaining admirers. Dozens of high schools in California, he said, have started to run his system, as well as four of the five highest-scoring junior college teams in the country last year.

Calipari, who calls his version of the offense the "Dribble-Drive Motion," envisions a similar kind of response in this region. Though coaches came to the clinic from as far away as Lebanon and Puerto Rico, the largest contingent was from Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and other nearby states.

Walter McElroy and Kimberly Jenkins, who coach the boys and girls teams, respectively, at Valley Springs High School near Harrison, Ark., said they traveled to the clinic not necessarily to learn a new offense but to pick up a few techniques they can incorporate into their practices.

"We get a lot of drills; it will add some flavor to what we already do," Jenkins said.

"You always see stuff, and it looks real good when you're talking about Calipari and these guys," McElroy said. "You have to figure out if you can work it in with your kids at home."

The clinic also offered other basketball perspectives, including coaches like Eustachy, whose halfcourt offense at Southern Miss certainly doesn't mesh with Memphis' free-flowing style.

White Station coach Jesus Patino was among the first coaches to arrive at the clinic, pulling out a 10-year-old book authored by Harris, who was among the speakers Friday night.

"I want to get it signed," Patino said. "I read this book, underlined it and learned so much from it. It made my life so much easier. His mind is amazing; I finally get a chance to see him in person."

Though Calipari said he believes it's easier for a high school to run his offense, simply because it's not about calling set plays every time down the court, he admits that it requires a leap of faith.

"We're pretty conventional," Calipari told the clinic attendees in his opening remarks Friday night. "When you see (Walberg's) stuff, you're going to say, 'This guy is a psycho.'"

Though Calipari made the philosophical jump to Walberg's side three years ago, Walberg said he's always pushing Calipari to do a little more.

"He's 66-8 (the last two years)," Walberg said. "I wish he would play faster, but more important, I want him to get a couple guys that can just straight-out shoot. He loves those athletes; get a kid who isn't as good an athlete but just a shooter. That stretches that defense and makes the offense even more effective. But John, when we're together, I feel like we've been brothers forever."

ESPN's Jay Bilas' CUSA Projections

Here's how Jay Bilas expects C-USA to unfold this season:

1. Memphis
The Tigers have dominated this league since it broke apart and will not be challenged in 2008. With Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Derrick Rose, John Calipari has more talent than any two teams in C-USA, and he has the most talent in the nation. If Memphis makes free throws, forget it. The chances of Memphis finishing lower than first in C-USA are the same as Blutarsky's GPA: 0.0.

2. UAB
Mike Davis struggled with implementing his system in 2006-07, and UAB held the distinction of being a worse free-throw shooting team than Memphis. But, with quality returnees Paul Delaney and Lawrence Kinnard teaming with transfers Robert Vaden, Walter Sharpe and Channing Toney, the Blazers could finish as high as second.

3. Tulsa
Doug Wojcik has made Tulsa into a fine defensive unit and rebounding team, which led to 20 wins and a 9-7 C-USA finish last season. With 70 percent of the Golden Hurricane's scoring back, Wojcik can improve upon that if his developing players learn to protect the ball and increase efficiency.

4. Houston
One thing is certain about Houston: Tom Penders' team will score. High-scoring Rob McKiver returns, joined by Texas transfer Dion Dowell. If Houston ever gets down and really guards effectively without fouling, the Cougars could do some damage in C-USA.

5. Southern Miss
Larry Eustachy is starting to turn the culture around at Southern Miss, and the Golden Eagles have responded well to his mantra of defense and rebounding. The 2006-07 Southern Miss squad was so young it had its diapers changed at halftime, and this team will be young again but more talented. Jeremy Wise, who garnered second-team All-C-USA honors as a rookie, should lead the way.

6. UCF
Quick, who is the coach at UCF? If you said Kirk Speraw, who has been at the Knights' helm for 15 years, you would be correct -- and perhaps a member of the Speraw family. Speraw, who was the 2006-07 C-USA Coach of the Year, hardly is a household name in the college hoops world. The veteran coach has a solid team returning but not one that likely will put him in the spotlight this season. Jermaine Taylor, who has never started a game at UCF, will be the top scorer for the best shooting team in the league.

Tony Barbee coaxed 14 wins out of his troops last season and should improve upon that number in 2007-08, but not by much. UTEP will be young, with six freshmen to support leading scorer and rebounder Stefon Jackson.

8. SMU
Matt Doherty had one of the bigger challenges in the nation in rebuilding the SMU program, but he has brought in a nationally rated recruiting class. The Ponies will be young but should be better. The future is bright in Dallas under Doherty.

9. Marshall
Former Florida assistant Donnie Jones takes over the Thundering Herd, and he has Markel Humphrey, a third team All C-USA selection, and Mark Dorris, a 6-2 shooting guard, to help him implement his new system. Marshall will run and press more, and should improve upon its 13-19 slate.

10. Tulane
Has any coach in America had it tougher than Dave Dickerson? He not only had to rebuild a struggling Tulane program, but he had to do it in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. It is hard not to root for Tulane. And it's easy to recognize that Dickerson is one of the most courageous coaches in the country for the burden he has shouldered.

11. Rice
Willis Wilson lost top scorer, NBA first-rounder and C-USA Player of the Year Morris Almond, and with him went the focal point of the offense. Rice lost its top three scorers and returns only one player who averaged more than five points per game (Cory Pfleifer's 6.3 ppg).

12. East Carolina
Mack McCarthy takes over the Pirate program, and he might want to wear two eye patches when watching his team play. East Carolina has won only 14 games in the past two seasons, but it does return Darrell Jenkins, the Pirates' top scorer and the league's top assist man.

-- Jay Bilas

More From on CUSA

More From on CUSA

East Carolina

The good news for Mack McCarthy? The Pirates can't possibly sink any lower. Long the doormat in the conference, ECU might have reached new depths of misery in Ricky Stokes' final year. The Pirates won just six games -- and half of those were against Division II opponents. They lost to Richmond. They scored only 59.3 points per game, 314th out of 325 ranked teams. McCarthy has some more good news in that Sam Hinnant, a conference all-rookie selection two seasons ago, is back, after playing only 14 games last season because of a leg injury.


Losing Lanny Smith after four games, Tom Penders once argued, was akin to the football team losing quarterback Kevin Kolb. A savvy playmaker, Smith gave his coach a scare this summer when he twisted his ankle. "He's fine, but we put him in a boot," Penders said. "He's the type of kid, if you don't put him in a cast or a boot, he'll be out there till midnight." Losing Smith would be particularly bad this season, when Houston seems to have the tools to complete Penders' reclamation project. Seton Hall transfer Marcus Cousin adds bulk inside, and a talented rookie class, highlighted by New York point guard Zamal Nixon and two-guard Brockeith Pane, gives the Cougars the sort of depth to maybe turn the corner for good.


Thundering Herd faithful are hoping some of Billy Donovan's pixie dust was sprinkled on Donnie Jones. The school reached out to the Donovan protégé, hiring the Florida assistant to replace Ron Jirsa. Now, Jones will have to pull a point guard out of his hat. Chris Ross is gone, and Marshall really doesn't have a true floor leader. Darryl Merthie did little to make anyone confident he could be the guy, struggling with turnovers when he subbed for Ross. The Herd also lost forwards Travis Aikens and Tre Whitted, putting a lot on Markel Humphrey's shoulders. Humphrey put up impressive numbers last year -- 14 points and 6.5 rebounds -- but one guy can't resurrect a team that hasn't had a winning conference record since 2001 (and the Herd was in the MAC then).


There is a reason the Tigers are virtually everyone's preseason No. 1 team. Well, actually, lots of reasons. Chris Douglas-Roberts, Joey Dorsey and Derrick Rose, to name a few. Memphis is loaded, with enough talent to field an NBA team. Last March, the Tigers went to the Elite Eight. And now, they've added Rose, the No. 1 or No. 1A freshman (depending on whom you ask) in the country. If you really, truly need to find a weakness in John Calipari's squad, look at the free-throw line. The Tigers hit just 61 percent from the charity stripe last season.


Stumbling down the stretch with five losses in its six final regular-season games, Rice still managed to finish a respectable 16-16. Only that was with Morris Almond, the C-USA Player of the Year, who averaged 26.9 points per game. With Almond gone, along with point guard Lorenzo Williams and center Greg Killings, coach Willis Wilson is going to have to search for his offense. No returning player averaged more than 6.3 points per game. But at least the Owls will play in a nicer building. Autry Court, of which Wilson once said, "It's like going to work in a slum," is getting a much-needed facelift.


Two years into his new gig, Matt Doherty has lost four starters from a team that mustered just a 3-13 finish. Bamba Fall, sidelined with a finger injury for part of the season, and Derrick Roberts, bothered by knee pain, are back. But it is Doherty's first recruiting class that will need to grow up in a hurry. The guys who are coming in are his guys. Rookies Ryan Harp, Alex Malone and Robert Nyakundi, all of Texas, New Yorker Papa Dia and Iowa City's Mike Walker really are the linchpins for the Mustangs' immediate and future success.

Southern Miss

The Golden Eagles weren't pretty, but they were effective. Ugly-ing up the game with serious defense, Larry Eustachy turned a 10-21 team into a 20-11 one. Southern Miss ranked 38th nationally in scoring defense, allowing only 62.4 points per game, and 24th in field-goal percent defense, holding opponents to 40 percent from the floor. Four newcomers started every game last season for a Southern Miss team that was the second-youngest in Division I. And that can only mean one thing: experience. Jeremy Wise, the C-USA Rookie of the Year, highlights the newbies who now are automatic veterans for a team that could make the postseason.


Given everything he's had to deal with, Dave Dickerson ought to be coach of the year. The Green Wave finished 17-13, its first winning record since 2003. He has reason for more optimism this season. Though long-distance threat Chris Moore is gone, forward David Gomez (13.5 ppg, 5.8 rpg) returns, and the inside tandem of Robinson Louisme and Donnie Stith makes going in the paint against the Green Wave a nightmare. The tandem helped Tulane lead the league in blocked shots, averaging 6.25 per game.


Another potential sleeper team, the Golden Hurricane, won 20 games last season despite a serious youth movement. Four talented freshmen and all but two of the part-time starters are back, including Ben Uzoh (9.9 ppg, 5 rpg) and Rod Earls (11.2 ppg). Tulsa didn't do well taking care of the ball, averaging 16.3 turnovers per game, but that very well could have been just a sign of youth. If Doug Wojcik's colts can grow up, the Golden Hurricane could surprise some people.


After three consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, UAB fans weren't exactly pleased with Mike Davis' inaugural 15-16 run. Patience, Davis preached; he was changing the team's style. Plus, he knew what was on his bench: transfers Robert Vaden (Indiana), Channing Toney (Georgia) and Walter Sharpe (Mississippi State), who should make big noise this season. Davis also has an incoming class that already was ranked ninth in the country before 7-footer Zisis Sarikopoulos signed. Last season, it was all Paul Delaney all the time, despite facing double teams for most of season. And that was with Delaney playing the point. Now, with Aaron Johnson directing the show, Delaney should be a more comfortable two-guard, and with additional help, shouldn't be the sole focus of opposing defenses.

Central Florida

The sleeper of the conference only two years after jumping from the Atlantic Sun, Kirk Speraw's crew returns eight of the top 10 scorers from a 22-9 team that still is fuming over its NIT slight. Point guard Jermaine Taylor (10.3 ppg, 3.7 apg) is the best of the bunch, but equally bright news comes from Dave Noel. Once a defensive specialist, he upped his offensive production to 9.1 points and 3.8 rebounds last season. Should the Knights make the postseason this March, they will have earned it, after dealing with a brutal schedule that includes Villanova, Connecticut, Ole Miss and Nevada.


Tony Barbee should get a mulligan on his first season. Inheriting the job after Doc Sadler bolted for Nebraska in August 2006, Barbee was in a mad dash to get anything done. Not surprisingly, UTEP suffered its first losing season since 2003. His job isn't much easier this season. In May, Barbee dismissed four players from the team, including Maurice Thomas, the team's most productive big man, and Malik Alvin, a sometimes starting point guard. How well the Miners respond depends on how quickly six new freshmen figure things out, particularly big man Manuel Cass. UTEP was manhandled inside last season, and with Thomas gone, it's up to Cass and junior college transfer Tavaris Watts to get good fast.

-- Dana O'Neil

From - Memphis sets the pace in C-USA

Memphis sets the pace in C-USA

That was the consensus on the University of Memphis when Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette and DePaul packed up their toys for the Big East, and Charlotte and St. Louis bolted for the Atlantic 10. Most people presumed the Tigers, left with no one to play with, would fade into the basketball backdrop.

Instead, Memphis not only has lifted itself into a possible preseason No. 1 perch, it has pulled its entire conference along with it. Conference USA, tagged when the league broke up in 2005 as a one-bid league for eternity, is on the verge of becoming a multi-bid league again.

And it can thank the would-be basketball orphan Tigers.

"Having them out there as a Final Four-type team, that gives us credibility," Houston coach Tom Penders said. "We all want to catch up with Memphis. You need to have a target team in the league; I don't care who you are. When Syracuse and Connecticut aren't good, that hurts the Big East. We need Memphis to be good, and they've been great."

It's easy to say now that there were no worries.

But there were worries. In its heyday, C-USA earned six bids to the NCAA Tournament, with a surplus of excellence that put it right among the big boys. Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette regularly accounted for those bids.

Without those schools, there was a whole lot of Memphis, a sprinkle of Alabama-Birmingham and not much else.

"I was a little worried," admitted Memphis senior Joey Dorsey, who was a sophomore when the league fell apart.

John Calipari insists he wasn't. He dug into his coaching bag and pulled out the UMass model, figuring his Tigers, like his Minutemen, were going to have go outside the league to get their worth. He scheduled national opponents; recruited players here, there and everywhere; and argued that it's better to be the top dog than mixed in with a pack of similar pedigrees.

In the three seasons since things supposedly fell apart, Calipari's squads have been to the Elite Eight twice, and this season's team boasts talent that the Memphis Grizzlies would envy.

"Two things I considered," Calipari said. "The conference gives you the schedule for January and February. What you do with the rest of it is up to you. That's number one. Second, kids don't care. Ask them about the league, and what's the only league they care about? The league. They want to know if you can prepare them to go to the NBA."

But what's more important is that while Calipari has helped the league tread water, the other teams have started to catch up. The average RPI for C-USA members is moving in the right direction: 148 this season, up from 169 the previous season.

Realizing the sink-or-swim reality of college hoops, schools are starting to pony up the cash to make things happen. This season, Central Florida is getting a new arena, SMU is debuting a new practice facility and Rice is sprucing up its gym.

"The league sagged a little bit when everyone left," said acting East Carolina coach Mack McCarthy, whose program has owned the conference basement. "But the teams that have come in all have made a strong commitment to being nationally competitive. Teams are spending; schools are giving you the resources. There's no question that, sitting here today at East Carolina, we know that we have all the resources that we need to be competitive in this league."

No question there still is tons to be done. Central Florida, Southern Miss and Tulsa all won 20 games last season, but none won 20 of the right games, and they were left out of the Selection Sunday fun.

To truly declare itself rejuvenated and reborn, C-USA needs to give Memphis some Madness company.

"This league is headed strongly in the right direction," Penders said. "It's a good basketball league. We may never get six teams in the way we did before, but the league makes sense now. We all have a lot of commonalities; rivalries are forming. We're on our way again."

-- Dana O'Neil
Dana O'Neil is a reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News. She can be reached at