Saturday, October 27, 2007

Sleeper to Make the Final Four

The top teams for the upcoming NCAA basketball season have been hashed and rehashed by the national media outlets. I thought I would take a look at the best of the rest to select my Sleeper team that could make the Final Four this year and some other unranked teams that I think will end the season ranked.

First of all, lets define a sleeper team -- no it is not a Duke team ranked 11th in preseason polls. I am looking to go a lot more out on the limb than that for a sleeper pick. I am going to eliminate all of the Top 25 teams in the the Preseason USA Today/ESPN Coaches Poll. Since the poll will be changing all year, I am posting these 25 excluded teams: UNC, UCLA, Memphis, Kansas, Georgetown, Louisville, Tennessee, Mich State, Indiana, Wash St, Duke, Marquette, Oregon, Gonzaga, Texas A&M, Texas, Arizona, USC, Arkansas, Pittsburgh, Stanford, Kentucky, Southern Ill, NC State and Villanova.

Alright, now we know who is off limits. To make a deep run in the tourney a team usually needs talented upper class guards (either Srs or Jrs), solid defense and they usually have a player that can average 15+ pts a game throughout the tourney.

Without further adieu, my sleeper pick for the 2008's Final Four is:

the Ohio State University

Ohio State Buckeyes Twins Enterprises NCAA Franchise

Despite losing 4 starters including 3 very talented players to the NBA draft in Oden, Conley Jr and Cook, OSU still has immense talent remaining and has restocked vacated positions. They have Senior leadership at PG in Jamar Butler. Prior to Conley joining the team last year, Butler was the starting PG and played well as a Sophomore. Last year he moved to SG and spent some time at point when Conley was out on team that fell to Florida in the National Title game -- the kid has some experience. Also returning is the sophomore wing/SG, David Lightly, who showed flashes off the bench last year.

They also add a Top 100 wing in freshman Eric Turner who can play either the 2 or 3 spot. Turner is very talented and is a proven scorer. I would be very surprised if Turner is not playing significant minutes, and maybe even starting by mid-season.

In the front court, OSU adds Kosta Koufas, a 7'1" Center that was one of the top 15 rated freshman coming in for 2007 to two Sr PFs, Othello Hunter and Matt Terwilliger. But Matta also added another highly talented Top 100 forward in Dallas Lauderdale who could compete for minutes this year.

This team is tournament tested and has made a deep run so they know what it takes to win. Matta has proven himself as a very good recruiter and this year he reloads but with some key senior leadership at PG and in the front court. Don't be surprised if they make another deep run this year.


Other Teams Not Currently Rated that Should be by Year-End

Kansas State


Kansas State Wildcats Top of the World Cement Mixer

I might have included KState as a potential sleeper team for a Final Four run if Huggins had remained. However, with a new coach and lack of upper class leadership at the guard position, I do not think they have the legs to make a deep run in the tournament.

But make no mistake, this team is loaded with talent. Bill Walker returns from an ACL injury during his freshman campaign. He was one of the Top 5 rated players in the 2006 recruiting class and he appears to be back at full strength and agility. In addition, KState adds Michael Beasley, a 6'10" forward that was rated #2 behind OJ Mayo in this 2007 class. They also return 6'5" David Hoskins for one of the top front court's in the nation.

However, the backcourt is shaky and became more so with the loss of incoming freshman Dominique Sutton for academic reasons. With unproven guard play it seems unlikely KState will be able to make a deep run in the tournament.

Clemson

Clemson Tigers Twins Enterprises NCAA Franchise

With four remaining starters, one might also consider them for a Final Four run in the tournament. However, the lost fifth starter was team leader Vernon Hamilton, the PG and teams 2nd leading scorer. If incoming freshman, Demontez Stitt can quickly learn the offense and limit turnovers this team could make noise.

With veteran leadership from bigs James Mays, Raymond Sykes and Trevor Booker the Tigers will have plenty of interior scoring and rebounding. Cliff Hammonds returns at SG and is a consistent scorer who hits 38% from 3 pt range.

After a dismal end to the season last year, the Tigers wound up in the NIT but then made a run to the Championship Game where they lost to West Virginia. While not the NCAA tournament such a run was good experience for this year.

If this team can gel around a freshman PG they could conceivably make a Sweet Sixteen run in the tournament.





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Thursday, October 25, 2007

Preseason Team Write-ups

I was cruising the web yesterday and ended up at USA Today's college basketball team preview pages. WOW, very impressive write-ups on all the teams I looked through including teams that are expected to finish in the middle or bottom of a conference.

These write-ups are much more detailed than I have found on other sites. I highly recommend that you give them a read.

USA Today Team Index

Another great site for pre-season team write-ups is Storming the Floor. They do a nice detailed job on the top teams and a nice summary write-ups on the conferences.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Best Rivalry Slogans

Football is in full swing and basketball is on the way. So its a good time of year to highlight some of the most creative Rivalry T-Shirts.

If you find other cool ones feel free to comment them in, but keep them relatively clean or I won't allow them.

Sorry Dookies, but you appear the most popular team to hate and there were just so many choices.

Flush A Dookie Ash Grey T-Shirt


K Sucks White T-Shirt


Hating Duke Women's T-Shirt


Duke Sucketh Bumper Sticker


Kentucky We put the sin in co Long Sleeve T-Shirt


Kentucky Ash Grey T-Shirt


Muck Fichigan Long Sleeve T-Shirt


Screw Blue Ash Grey T-Shirt


Real Coaches Dont Wear Sweate Ringer T


trOJan T-shirt



Other good ones but that I could not copy in an image:


I was IN Ann Arbor last night

I love the smell of roasting Gator in the morning


If you have some others, please feel to comment them in.





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Sunday, October 14, 2007

So Who had the best Midnight Madness Weekend

Well Midnight Madness has ended and several schools had very productive weekends. Many had their highest priority recruits on campus and several came away with verbal commitments. Here is the rundown and my ranking of the most productive weekends per school:

Georgetown Hoyas Top of the World NCAA Classic

1. Georgetown - The Hoyas had a huge cache of 5 star recruits on campus this weekend and then added a verbal commitment from Greg Monroe, Scout.com's #1 recruit in the 2008. Monroe joins three other top 100 recruits in 2008. With three other 5 star recruits on campus for 2009, it is clear the future looks bright for the Hoyas.

Illinois Fighting Illini Twins Enterprises NCAA Franchise

2. Illinois - Despite the highest winning percentage of any DI coach during his first 4 years at Illinois, there were rumblings among the Illini faithful about the shortage of "big name" recruits during Weber's tenure. It appears that all those doubts were erased this weekend when Weber landed three of the top 10 players in Illinois for 2009, all of which should be at least 4 star recruits by next summer. The three verbal commitments come from Joseph Bertrand, Brandon Paul and DJ Richardson. Combined with the Illini's 5 star 2010 recruit Jereme Richmond and the Illini appear to have a very solid core for a long time to come. Given the noise, this weekend was just what the doctor ordered for Weber and staff.

Others scoring big in no particular order (vote for your favorite for 3rd at right)
Kentucky - Had several top 100 players on campus, including 4 star Chris Singleton (08) and a surprise visit from 5 star J'Mison Morgan (08). They also had several 2009 recruits including 5 star recruit John Wall.

Louisville - How does a school get listed despite not even staging a Midnight Madness celebration, well they received verbal commitments from two 08 recruits this weekend including heavily recruited Terrance Jennings and Kyle Kuric.

Marquette - Marquette was able to attract 5 star 08 recruit Iman Shumpert to campus for Midnight Madness (over UNC and Georgia Tech) and then also received a verbal commitment from top 100 2009 recruit Erik Williams.

North Carolina - Very solid group of 4 and 5 star recruits showed up at UNC from 2009-2011 classes including highly regarded Dominic Cheek, Milton Jennings and Kendall Marshall.

Special Mention
Indiana - I clearly had them slated for one of the top spots because of the group of 5 star recruits they attracted to campus, however then the news broke this weekend that IU issued sanctions to Kelvin Sampson and the staff for several new rules violations. Given the mess Sampson was already in this clearly knocks the program down a notch and raises questions about the long-term future. Despite all that they did have a solid group of recruits on campus this weekend including 2009 5 star recruits; Nolan Dennis, Lance Stephenson and Dexter Strickland.





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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Around the Country for Midnight Madness

I plan to update this post throughout then next three days to accurately reflect the actual recruits that were on campus as several of the nation's top basketball programs. While attending MM at a certain school does not necessarily foreshadow a future commitment, it is an indicator of strong interest by the recruit since most programs run their Midnight Madness on the same night.

This list will ONLY include uncommitted recruits in attendance, since it is assumed any committed recruit will attend their respective school's MM. Exceptions will be edited in commitments that happen just prior to or at MM.

The following schools do not have a MM celebration scheduled; Florida and Ohio State. Syracuse, NC State and Villanova are having an event a week later but since they are not willing to compete with other schools for the recruits 'attention, I am not counting willing to count them in my list.

If a top basketball school is not listed, I could not find any information about who is visiting -- you are welcome to comment in anybody else you know.

Here is what I know so far (in alphabetical order by school and by year for recruits):

Arkansas
Brandon Moore (08) [edit: verbal commitment 10-14-07]

Boston College
Evan Ravenal (08) [edit: verbal commitment 10-13-07]

Connecticut
John Riek (08)
Assane Sene (08)
Kemba Walker (08)
Jamaal Coombs (09)
Alex Oriakhi (09)

couple of top rated prospects for 2009 in Oriakhi and Coombs and 2008's Riek is 7'2" - nuff said.

Georgetown
Gus Gilchrist (08)
Greg Monroe (08) [edit: verbal commitment 10-13-07]
Renaldo Woolridge (08)
Isiah Armwood (09)
Deshonte Riley (09)
Hollis Thompson (09)
Terrell Vinson (09)

GTown already has 3 strong commits for 2008 and this weekend will have up to 15 recruits on campus including 5 star 2008 recruit Monroe and 3 5 stars for 2009 and the son of former NBAer Orlando Woolridge.

Georgia Tech
Tyshawn Taylor (08)

Illinois
Joe Bertrand (09) - [edit: verbal commitment 10-11-07]
Marcus Jordan (09)
James Kinney (09)
Brandon Paul (09) - [edit: verbal commitment 10-11-07]
DJ Richardson (09) -[edit: verbal commitment 10-11-07]
Jordan Walker (09)
Lavonte Dority (10)
Anthony Johnson (10)

talk about momentum shift, with no verbals for 2008 -- Weber and gang grab three of the top players in Illinois for 2009 on the eve of MM; others expected to attend include two of top Illinois recruits from the class of 2010. I think the Champagne will be flowing in Champaign Friday night.

Indiana

Jordan Prosser (08)
Nolan Dennis (09)
Jacob Jenkins (09)
Kevin Jones (09)
Lance Stephenson (09)
Dexter Strickland (09)
Stephen van Treese (09)
Ray McCallum Jr (10)

impressive list that includes 3 5-star recruits for 2009 in Strickland, Stephenson and Dennis.

Kansas
Marcus Morris (08)
Markieff Morris (08)
Michael Dixon (09)
Jeff Reid (09)
Trevor Releford (10)

and the saga continues for the Morris brothers, after committing, decommitting, and reconsidering with Memphis, the brothers are now looking at KU, Villanova and St. Johns. They are attending KU's MM this week and Villanova's MM next week.

Kentucky
Verdell Jones (08)
J'Mison Morgan (08)
Ralph Sampson (08)
Chris Singleton (08)
Jon Hood (09)
John Wall (09)
JT Terrell (10)

after already gaining commits from three solid players for 2008 in Liggins, Miller and Fortson, they are keeping it rolling with more top recruits at MM including a 5 star for 2009.

Louisville (no midnight madness but a few recruits in town)
Terrance Jennings (08) [edit: verbal commitment 10-13-07]
Kyle Kuric (08) [edit: verbal commitment 10-13-07]

Marquette
Iman Shumpert (08)
Jared Swopshire (08)
Joey Brooks (09)
Erik Williams (09) [edit: verbal commitment 10-13-07]
Evan Anderson (10)

MU is hosting one of the few remaining 5 star prospect for 2008 in Shumpert

Maryland
Jin Soo Kim (08) [edit: verbal commitment 10-13-07]
Ater Majok (08)
Andrew Fitzgerald (09)

Memphis
Elliot Williams (08)
Xavier Henry (09)
Leslie McDonald (09)

MU is hosting one of the few remaining 5 star prospect for 2008 in Williams and a couple of 5 stars for 2009

Michigan State
Richard Howell (09)
Donovan Kirk (09)
Keith Appling (10)

North Carolina
Dominic Cheek (09)
Milton Jennings (09)
David Wear (09)
Travis Wear (09)
Kendall Marshall (10)
Julian Royal (11)

after securing two of the country's top 2 prospects in 2008, they are back with another solid list of prospects for MM including 5 star prospect Cheek.

Notre Dame
Tyler Zeller (08)

Oklahoma
Willie Warren (08)
Roger Franklin (09)

Southern Illinois
DeAndre McCamey (10)

Texas A&M
Jamal Branch (11) [edit: verbal commitment 10-15-07]

Wisconsin
Diamond Taylor (09)

Taylor is a very solid, under-rated SG for 2009.





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Sunday, October 7, 2007

BTN to Cover 'Midnight Madness'

Midnight Madness is less than 5 days away and we get great news from the Big Ten Network. They will be covering all the action live at some of the conferences' best basketball programs, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin (note: Ohio State does not celebrate Midnight Madness).

While ESPN has traditionally done a 5-10 minute segment on Midnight Madness around the country, there are usually only small snippets from each of the top schools. The BTN will be providing 90 minutes of coverage from these 5 schools, so a lot more in-depth coverage for us basketball junkies.

The full press release can be found here.