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Friday, November 09, 2007

From MSNBC - A ROSE BLOOMS, BUT FOR HOW LONG?

A ROSE BLOOMS, BUT FOR HOW LONG?

Posted: Tuesday, November 06, 2007 9:54 PM
Filed Under: Season previews, Freshmen
Who’s the face of college basketball?

That’s the question by from ESPN’s Andy Katz. Without the fab five at Florida, Greg Oden, Kevin Durant, Katz wonders who will be this year’s face of college basketball. It’s a far cry from two years ago when one couldn’t escape the J.J. Redick and Adam Morrison highlights.

This year the focus is on guys like Tennessee’s Chris Lofton, UNC’s Tyler Hansbrough, Georgetown’s Roy Hibbert or Michigan State’s Drew Neitzel, all preseason All-Americans and upperclassmen.

At least that’s where the hard-core fan focus is. Odds are casual fans -- the ones who pay attention after the NFL season ends and the bubble talk begins -- don’t know those names, except for possibly Hansbrough (because the Heels play on TV so often) and Hibbert (as one of the biggest names back from a Final Four team).

If last season was any indication, the freshmen will be the most well-known players. O.J. Mayo has already played games on ESPN. Eric Gordon’s name is known throughout Big Ten country as the guy who spurned Illinois. And then there’s Memphis’ Derrick Rose, who looked NBA-ready in his debut on Monday.

The 6-4 point guard is supposed to be the reason the Tigers finally reach the Final Four after back-to-back Elite Eights. After seeing him play two games, I'm a believer, as are others. Don’t believe me? Watch for yourself.

Still, as good as Rose was/is, odds are he won’t be back for his sophomore season, thus making this topic relevant again next season.

So who are the biggest stars in college hoops? Easy: the coaches.

Check out this fabulous story from the Washington Post about the Big East’s elite group of coaches. I happen to agree that coaches, not players, are the stars of the college game. Any school that has a marquee coach would be foolish not to emphasize that coach when they’re the ones who stay in the college game, not the players.

Need more proof? Kentucky moved on from Tubby Smith to Bill Gillispie this season. And all the preseason talk about the Wildcats isn’t about their players, but about Gillispie. (For the record, the ‘Cats are a solid Top 25 team, but a Final Four is a longshot.)

Gillispie’s Kentucky debut was a breeze, though he wasn’t overly pleased despite Central Arkansas hitting just 20 percent of its shots. “Their 20 percent wasn’t enough us. It was more them. We set pretty high standards.” Sounds like standard fare from a guy who eats, sleeps and breathes college hoops…

North Carolina snagged itself a big man for the future in Indiana schoolboy Tyler Zeller. Did Kelvin Sampson’s recent NCAA infractions scare him off or was the Chapel Hill allure too great?

Washington State was the surprise team last season and returns four starters this year. But something tells me that despite the attention Tony Bennett’s team is receiving, the Cougars won’t match last season’s 26-7 performance…

Which story was more timely Tuesday? This preview of Ohio State’s exhibition against D-II Findlay (a game the Buckeyes lost that night) or a feature on Maryland senior James Gist and his desire to be “that guy” for the Terps? I go with the former, even if Maryland did announce a one-game suspension for Gist on Tuesday…

OK, maybe the Internet isn’t perfect. Maybe watching a game online can be choppy. But it’s still preferable to scouring a box score the next day or hoping for random highlights on SportsCenter…

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