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Thursday, September 27, 2007

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.

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