Thursday, January 10, 2008

Props for S.I.'s College Hoops Coverage

I read a lot of College Basketball columns and obviously love watching as many games as a I can. I mean, how many of you were watching South Florida/Pittsburgh and Ole Miss/Tennessee last night (with Gossip Girl sprinkled in between)? I'm sure you missed it, but the game in Knoxville was spectacular if you like up and down basketball. Lots of full court pressure, lots of dunks, lots of threes. Speaking of things that are great, I have to prop up the Sports Illustrated website and their stable of College Basketball writers.

Seth Davis whom you know from CBS's college hoops studio coverage, is as good as it gets. Make sure you get on his columns on Friday's which give you a breakdown of the weekend's biggest games. This week, Seth did his annual stock report; which teams he is buying, selling, and holding. Obviously, he is buying the Jayhawks:

Kansas: BUY
No need to overthink this one. The Jayhawks have more depth and talent than any team in America, and I love the way Darnell Jackson is playing down low. Plus, the Big 12 is just so-so and they only have to play Texas once.

Other teams of interest that we have discussed in our past blogs:

Indiana: BUY
Hoosiers are just outside the top 10 right now, but that will change in the next couple of weeks. Not only is Eric Gordon the front-runner for Big Ten player of the year as a freshman, but I think he should be the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft. The Hoosiers also have plenty room for growth. Look for freshman Jordan Crawford and juco transfer Jamarcus Ellis to steadily improve the next two months.

Arizona: SELL
I really, really want to like this Wildcats team, but they keep letting me down. I know they're playing without Jerryd Bayless right now, but that's no excuse for not showing up defensively at home against Oregon on Saturday. I like that Jordan Hill gives them an inside weapon they haven't had in a while, but unless this team adopts a tougher identity, it will continue to disappoint in the rough-and-tumble Pac-10.

Michigan State: HOLD
The Spartans have been mighty impressive the last month, largely because Raymar Morgan is looking like an All-Big Ten player. But it's hard to see them going higher than No. 6 in both polls. Getting to the Final Four is a realistic goal for this group, but I'd be very surprised if they won it all.

Tennessee: BUY
This is a vote for the Vols as well as a vote against the SEC. There's no team in the country that is more relentless than Tennessee, and you've got to figure it's only a matter of time before Chris Lofton rediscovers his shooting touch. J.P. Prince, the midseason transfer from Arizona, has also made a much bigger impact than I anticipated.

Davis's weekly Hoop Thoughts column is a must read. He listens to what I say (ok, probably not): Hard to imagine a more improved player than Kansas' Darnell Jackson.... I gotta say Micah Downs has been a pretty big disappointment at Gonzaga.... Here's yet another reason to love Indiana freshman Eric Gordon: Besides shooting 44.6 percent from three-point range, he has also attempted 117 free throws, the most in the Big Ten, in just 13 games. He's also second in the conference in free throw percentage (.855). (Okay, so that's three reasons to love Eric Gordon.)

Luke Winn puts up a great daily blog in which he sometimes opines about the game, and others gets a great Q&A session with some of the games top players. He also is in charge of the weekly Power Rankings. This comes out every Thursday. You can't get this kind of stuff everywhere, like this interview with Indiana's D.J. White:

LW: Your t-shirt-wearing habits have been of interest of Indiana fans. You used to have some kind of system to decide when you wore one under your jersey, right? Now it seems that there's a
t-shirt brigade on the team -- Gordon, Jordan Crawford and Jamarcus Ellis -- and you're never wearing one.

DJW: That started back in high school for me. I'm very superstitious, and back then I'd wear a white t-shirt under my jersey for every home game. I kept doing that for every year up until this one. But this season, a bunch of my teammates were all used to playing with t-shirts, too, and they kind of took my style, so I had to do something else. I figured I'd changed it up for my last year, and go with no sleeves. It's been working out, so I guess I'll keep it that way.

Grant Wahl writes the excellent "The Bag" column. This week's column focuses on one and done K-State sensation Michael Beasley and the way college coaches are using some AAU coaches as bait to bring the recruits to their school. Like Dalonte Hill at K-State. He was Beasley's AAU coach as a kid.

Per the story: Beasley is the clearest high-profile example in years of a so-called package deal, in which a team hires a new staff member who takes advantage of a pre-existing relationship to help land a top recruit. It all comes back to Beasley's close ties since age 13 with Dalonte Hill, who was one of Beasley's coaches on the powerful D.C. Assault AAU team. In September 2003, three weeks after Charlotte hired Hill away from D.C. Assault as an assistant, Beasley gave a verbal commitment to the 49ers. Then in June 2006, two months after then-Kansas State coach Bob Huggins poached Hill for his own staff, Beasley announced he was going to Manhattan, even though he had never seen the campus. There are several cases of this in D-1, including at Kansas, where Mario Chalmers dad, Ronnie, is the director of basketball operations.

Roy Williams was quoted in the story saying "I would never consider doing it. Both times I told the person, 'I will recruit the kid or I'll interview you as a coach, but we're not going to do both.' I thought it would almost end up being like a clique on my team and staff. And in saying that, I think sometimes it's not a problem. For me it's not the best situation, but I think you need to look at each one specifically." It's a good read. has the best all around coverage of the college game and deserves it props.

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