What a 24 hours it has been in the great city of East Lansing, Michigan. Last night, the preseason top-10 Michigan State Spartans basketball team opened their preseason against Division II Grand Valley State. Should have been a yawner right? I mean, only Michigan loses to D-II teams at home right? I mean, this is the great Tom Izzo's loaded squad with everybody back, isn't it? Clearly, the men in Green have a long way to go, as they were stunned 85-82 at the Breslin Center in double OT. I know, its only the preseason and it didn't count, but I know if my beloved Jayhawks lost a preseason game at home to say Washburn or Pittsburg State, I'd be a tad concerned.
That was Friday night.
Saturday they had a chance to make it all better for their fans. Hated rival Michigan was coming to town. A win and a chance to ruin Big Blue's season could make it all better. Things looked good for a while. In fact, when Jehuu Caldrick plunged into the end zone, the Spartans took a 24-14 lead with 7:40 left to play. Then it all fell apart of MSU. Chad Henne led the Wolverines on two TD drives to win the game and break the hearts of Spartan fans everywhere, who despise the Blue with a passion. To Michigan, this is just another game, their real rival resides in Columbus. The Spartans and their fans feel otherwise, and this one flat out hurt.
Back to the college basketball top 25. I'm gonna hit you with teams 15-11:
15. Gonzaga - Each year, The Bulldogs are ranked too high. They have become one of the "it" programs, but they still play in the West Coast Conference which weakens them come tournament time. Don't blame coach Mark Few, he will play anyone, any time, anywhere. This year's non-conference schedule includes Connecticut, Washington State, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and Memphis. The Zags return starting guards Jeremy Pargo and Matt Bouldin, as well as glue guy David Pendergraft and former McDonald's All-American and three-point specialist Micah Downs. But the guy everyone is waiting to see is the reinstated PF Josh Heyfeldt, who was famously dismissed from the team for drug possession last season. He is by far the most talented player in Few's stable. A return to form for the big man will pay big dividends for the Zags.
14. Texas - The good news for coach Rick Barnes is that he returns four starters. The bad news? That one missing starter is Kevin Durant. While Durant got all of the press last year, PG D.J. Augustine was quietly putting on a show in Austin. So much so that he was voted preseason player of the year in the Big 12. He will have plenty of help with long range bomber SG A.J. Abrams, PF Damion James, a monster on the glass, SG Justin Mason, and C Conner Atchley. There is plenty of big man depth with Matt Hill and wide-load Dexter Pittman. What should be interesting is if Freshman Gary Johnson gets cleared to play in games. The #10 nationally ranked high school Senior wasn't expected to play this season because of a heart condition, but currently is practicing with the team. But folks, watch out for Augustine, he is a stud and the best PG in the nation.
13. Duke - The lasting image of Duke is VCU's Eric Maynor exposing their lack of quickness and a first round loss. Coming off one of their worst seasons in years (by Duke standards), the Blue Devils should be a much improved, thanks to a fabulous Freshman class, headed by SF Kyle Singler who loves to play on the perimeter and combo guard Nolan Smith. Four starters return including the usual Duke villain Greg Paulus, SF Demarcus Nelson, SG Jon Scheyer who excelled as a Freshman, and highly touted Sophomore Gerald Henderson. Said Assistant coach Steve Wojciechowski about Henderson ''I think you will see him make a big jump -- maybe bigger than anyone else on our team. Gerald is our most talented player." They also carry the most depth they've had in a while, with SF David McClure, C Brian Zoubek, and another highly thought of Freshman SF Taylor King.
12. Arkansas - Poor Stan Heath, he stayed around a good six years of ups and downs, and got the ax during the offseason. He finally was going to have his most talented team abnd he never will get the chance to coach them. After an embarrassing offseason coaching search in which Arkansas failed to realize they are Arkansas and not North Carolina, they settled on their fourth choice, John Pelphrey. He is the one to cash in. The Razorbacks are primed for a huge season, thanks to five returning starters. The man to watch is SG Patrick Beverley. He spent the summer leading the Team USA under-19 squad in scoring (13.0 ppg), steals (31), assists (29) and minutes played (27.8 mpg) while shooting .544 from the field, .394 from three-point range and .750 from the free-throw line. Per Depaul and Team USA coach Jerry Wainwright, ''He may have the best motor in college basketball. Forwards Sonny Weems and Charles Thomas are double digit contributors, and 7-0 Center Steve Hill is a defensive presence. However, the key is the point guard play of the erratic Gary Ervin. If he can play under control and keep the turnovers to a minimum, The Razorbacls could be scary.
11. Oregon - PG Aaron Brooks will be missed, but there is still plenty to love in Eugene. Start with pint-sized PG Tajuan Porter. He averaged 14.6 PPG as a Freshman and can out-quick just about anybody, plus he has NBA three-point range. 6'5 SG Bryce Taylor should become the Ducks go to guy. The Senior is capable of putting up 25 on any give night. SF Malik Hairston came to Oregon to be one and done. While that hasn't materialized, Hairston is still a major scoring threat who rebounds extremely well. PF Maarty Leunen is an extrenely difficult guard thanks to his athleticism at 6'9. C Joevan Caetron, one of my favorite players in the country, will step into the starting lineup. He is a beast on the boards. The only question marks are depth and Ernie Kent's inabilty to get over the hump in the tournament. Remember, he was on the hottest of hot seats last year before winning 29 games and most likely saving his job.