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Bennett, Brown, and Mitchell Declare for the NBA Draft

March 26, 2013 in Preview

This past week signaled the end for a lot of teams college basketball season and when the season ends speculation heats up on who may be leaving early for the NBA Draft. Three high profile players have already announced their intentions to move onto the league early this week.

Lorenzo Brown, 6'5, G, Junior (NC State): Brown was one of the nation's top guards this year leading the ACC in assists by averaging over seven per game. Besides assists, most of Brown's numbers were actually slightly down from his sophomore year. His scoring dropped from 12.7 points per game to 12.4. Rebounds, field goal percentage, and three point field goal percentage all were down for Brown, while free throw percentage went up.

Brown is a combo guard that can develop and help an NBA team. He's right on the borderline of guaranteed money at this point and could spring board into the first round with an impressive Spring.

Draft Stock: Early First Round

Anthony Bennett, 6'8, F, Freshman (UNLV): The Canada native is coming off a big freshman campaign for the Runnin' Rebels and is set for the next step. Bennett finished the year averaging 16 points and 8 rebounds for UNLV. He is an athletic big man who is slated to be a high lottery pick and has even been slated as the Washington Wizards pick in many mock drafts.

Draft Stock: Lottery

Tony Mitchell, 6'8, F, Sophomore (North Texas): Mitchell certainly has one of the most interesting stories and paths to the draft around. The Texas native was set to go to Missouri but ran into numerous strange academic issues. Mitchell could either chose another school on a partial qualifier or go to a prep school for a year. Mitchell decided to go to North Texas and was a star for the Mean Green in 2012 averaging 15 points and over 10 rebounds per game. Many thought Mitchell, who has even represented Team USA on the U19 team, would go to the draft a year ago but he returned to Denton for another year. Mitchell's game seemed to deteriorate and he looked out of sorts at time. He finished the year averaging 13 points and just over 8 rebounds.

Mitchell was a lock for a lottery pick at the beginning of the season but his stock has likely dropped into the late first round. Someone will take a shot at the uber athletic enigma that is Tony Mitchell.

Draft Stock: Late First

Weekend College Hoops Preview: Feb 8

February 8, 2013 in Preview

Friday

UNC Asheville Bulldogs (14-10,8-2) at VMI Keydets (11-10,6-3), 7PM, ESPNU: It's rare that the Big South gets to shine on a Friday night in primetime but the conference will get to do so tonight with a rematch of last year's championship game. After a rough patch in their schedule VMI has responded with two straight wins to get them back into the mix of the North Division. Keep an eye on Big South Preseason Player of the Year Stan Okoye who is leading up to his billing for VMI leading the conference in points (20.6 ppg) and rebounds (9 per game). Duggar Baucom's up-tempo squad also has a nice piece in 6'7 DJ Covington who has been a beast in the paint averaging nearly 14 points per game and 7 boards.

On the Asheville side of the ball, the Bulldogs find themselves on a roll. After starting the season 1-6, Eddie Biedenbach's squad has clawed back to a 14-10 record and 8-2 South Division leading record in conference play. The defending champs have rattled off six straight conference wins behind Jeremy Atikinson (17 ppg) and Bruce Hornsby's son Keith (14 ppg). The Bulldogs will roll into a loud, hostile environment Friday night in Lexington, VA though.

Prediction: VMI 83, Asheville 79

Saturday

North Carolina Tar Heels (16-6,6-3) at #8 Miami Hurricanes (18-3,9-0), 2PM, ESPN:  It seems like a lot of people have forgot about the Tar Heels in the quagmire that is the ACC, but Roy Williams squad has won six of their last seven games all in ACC play. Most importantly, UNC has a luxury that most ACC do not have in three guys that can score any night in James Michael McAdoo, Reggie Bullock, and PJ Hairston. Saturday the Heels will have the rare opportunity to play the underdog at Miami in a game that could vault them back into the Top 25, but will the Tar Heels be looking ahead to next week's match up at Duke?

Jim Larranaga's squad has been on fire and has not lost a game since Christmas day. The Hurricanes also have a three headed scoring monster in Shane Larkin, Durand Scott, and Kenny Kadji but it is Reggie Johnson who has been the x-factor for Miami. Johnson is nearly averaging a double-double with just over 9 points and rebounds per game. Roy William's squad will have a lot to focus on in a game that will likely be one of the biggest for the program in the past ten years or so.

Prediction: Miami 73, UNC 69

#23 Pittsburgh Panthers (19-5,7-4) at #17 Cincinnati Bearcats (18-5,6-4), 6PM, ESPN: Has Jamie Dixon ever had a more under the radar squad than his Pitt team this year? The Panthers aren't going to blind you with stars this year but they have a lot of talent and are a team playing at a really high level lead by Tray Woodall, Lamar Patterson, and Talib Zanna; all of whom are averaging over 10 points per game. Pitt took down Syracuse last weekend and has only lost one out of their last seven games.

Mick Cronnin's Bearcats squad started the year off with bang going 12-0 but have kind of dinked and dunked their way through the Big East season. Cincy will sure to be hungry to get back on track after a loss at Providence on Wednesday. For the Bearcats it all about the talented backcourt of Cashmere Wright and Sean Kilpatrick who are combining to average 32 points per game.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 65, Cincinnati 60

Sunday

Virginia Cavaliers (16-6,6-3) at Maryland Terrapins (17-6,5-5), 1PM, Local Listings: Oooo the up and down ACC. Both Virginia and Maryland were able to escape Thursday night with solid wins which should set up a nice little Sunday matinee in College Park. The biggest question for the Wahoos is if 6'11 freshman Mike Tobey will be back to take on Alex Len. Tobey missed the Clemson game due to injury.

Both teams are programs that are on the bubble and seemed to be heading in the right direction long term. Maryland may need the win a lot more because they have two losses already to Florida State, another team on the bubble. This game may be one that can catapult either team into a better seed when the conference tournament rolls around. Lets not forgot that the Comcast Center is always a little crazy when the southern neighbors come to town.

Prediction: Maryland 59, Virginia 56

 Be sure to check out FULL COURT PRESS with Parks Smith on the FanSpeak Radio Network every Tuesday night at 8PM to talk about the latest new and analysis in College Basketball.

Big Monday Preview: #25 Notre Dame vs #9 Syracuse

February 4, 2013 in Preview

Notre Dame is one of those pesky teams in the Big East that always seems to be in the mix. The story behind the 2012-13 season for Mike Bray's club has been no different and the Irish are currently at 18-4 overall mark and a 6-3 conference record. After winning three straight can the Irish stay hot enough to knock off one the nation's best team in Syracuse for a 7 o'clock "Big Monday" tip in the Carrier Dome?

Chances are you haven't heard much about the Irish this year despite a 12 game win streak and an 14-1 start to their season, while you've likely heard plenty about the Orange. While the Irish have quietly gone under the radar, they've amassed impressive wins over Kentucky, BYU, Cincinnati, Purdue, and Villanova. The Irish are lead by big man Jack Cooley who is currently ranked fourth in the country in rebounding with 11.3 per game and also leads his team in scoring averaging 15 points per. Cooley is coming off a 26 points, 16 rebound performance against DePaul, but can the senior big man stay hot against Syracuse's daunting 2-3 zone?

Beyond Cooley, the Irish are relying on one the least talked about, solid guard combos in the country in Jerian Grant and Eric Atkins. The two Maryland natives are currently averaging a combined 24.4 points and 11.8 assists per game. You'd be hard pressed to find another set of guards with that kind of productivity together on the court in the nation. Notre Dame also has a rather deep team, but the key may be if one of these two guards can heat up from behind the arch to help thwart the Orange's 2-3 defense.

After knocking off the country's number one team in Louisville and then taking down number twenty-one Cincinnati, the Orange has struggled losing two straight games to Villanova and Pittsburgh. While the Irish is trying to stay hot, the Orange are just trying to heat back up before heading into a brutal stretch of their schedule beginning in late February where they'll have four out of five games against Top 25 teams. James Southerland has been a no-go for the Orange and is still waiting for the NCAA to hear his appeal. Many will point to the absence of Southerland as the reason for the Orange's skid, but the 'Cuse has actually been better on the offensive end of the court without Southerland. CJ Fair will likely see his fair share of Cooley tonight, so it may be up to him to shut him down in the zone scheme. Brandon Triche and Michael Carter-Williams will likely neutralize the guard play of Notre Dame, but Carter-Williams (who leads the country in assists) will need to prove why he is one of the nation's best by controlling this game on both ends of the court.

Prediction: Syracuse 71, Notre Dame 64

Be sure to check out FULL COURT PRESS with Parks Smith on the FanSpeak Radio Network every Tuesday night at 8PM to talk about the latest new and analysis in College Basketball.

College Hoops Weekend Preview: February 1

January 31, 2013 in Preview

NO NO NO! The Super Bowl is not the only sporting event going down this weekend. We have a great college slate of game this weekend that should be a great appetizer for the big game on Sunday night.

Friday February 1

Youngstown State (13-8,5-3) @ Detroit (14-8,6-3), ESPNU, 9PM: Friday night MAACtion is a little weak this week so if you need your hoops fix on Friday tune in at nine for a big Horizon league match up between the Penguins and Titans. Youngstown State is looking to take the next big step in their program turn-around. After 17 wins in two years the Penguins won 16 games a year ago and are making noise in the Horizon league this year. On Wednesday Youngstown had their most impressive win of the season taking down Valparaiso, the league's top ranked team, 80-68. Blake Allen, Kendrick Perry, and Damian Eargle are a talented trio averaging over 40 points per game. For Detroit its all about their second straight quest for the promised land after falling short a year ago. The coach's son Ray McCallum is the Horizon League's best player and averaging 18.4 points per game this year.
Predicted Score: Detroit 79, Youngstown State 74

Saturday February 2

#14 Miami (16-3,7-0) @ #19 North Carolina State (16-5,5-3), CBS, 4PM: NC State continues to be one of the country's most perplexing teams and the Canes continue to be one the biggest surprises. NC State has taken care of business against teams like Duke and North Carolina, but has had let down to teams like Virginia, Maryland, and Wake Forest. CJ Leslie and the Wolfpack can put the ball in the basket, but which NC State team will show up in Raleigh Saturday? On the other side, the Canes are cruising and have not lost in ACC play. Jim Larranaga's squad's biggest difference maker has to be 6'10 Reggie Johnson who is averaging 10 points and 9 rebounds pr game. Beyond Johnson the Canes have plenty of guys who can score and keep pace with the Wolfpack including Shane Larkin, Durand Scott, and Kenny Kadji.
Prediction: NC State 73, Miami 70

#1 Michigan (20-1,7-1) @ #3 Indiana (19-2,7-1), 9PM, ESPN: If it wasn't for the Super Bowl then this would be the biggest story of the week. The Wolverines are the nation's top ranked team for the first time since the Fab 5 but haven't won at Assembly Hall since 1986. Can the nation's top player Trey Burke along with sidekicks Tim Hardaway Jr and Glenn Robinson III break the streak?

Standing in the Wolverines way will 7 footer Cody Zeller who is now averaging over 16 points per game and 8 rebounds. Zeller presents the biggest mismatch and advantage for the Hoosiers, but he's going to need Will Sheehey, Jordan Hulls, Christian Watford, or Victor Oladipo to step up to take down Michigan.
Prediction: Indiana 75, Michigan 70

College Hoops Weekend Preview: January 18

January 18, 2013 in Preview

The talk of the weekend will certainly be the NFL Conference Championship games but there will be some great match ups on the hardwood to enjoy throughout the weekend.

Friday January 18

Stony Brook (13-4, 4-0) at Vermont (11-6, 4-1), 7PM, ESPNU: At first glance the Friday slate of games around the country doesn't look to exciting, but ESPNU should have a good America East match up on tap. Over the past three years the Catamounts and Seawolves have averaged 22 wins per season, and both teams have made postseason visits whether its been the NIT or the NCAA tournament. The road to the America East championship has been going through Burlington, Vermont for years and Catamount fans know their team can get a leg up in conference with a good home-court advantage tonight. Vermont is a very deep team with out individual threats, since Four McGlynn transferred to Towson. When Vermont wins its because of a total team effort, which they have shown in their four conference victories over Binghampton, UMBC, Albany, and New Hamshire. Stony Brook is undefeated in the America East and are stingy on the defensive end. The Seawolves also have three players currently averaging in double-figures in Anthony Jackson, Dave Coley, and Jameel Warney. This should be a great game with a great atmosphere in the Champlain Valley.Prediction: Vermont 59, Stony Brook 54

Saturday January 19

#17 Missouri (13-3, 2-1) at #10 Florida (13-2, 3-0), 2PM, ESPN:There's a big showdown in the SEC this Saturday as Missouri visits the swamp to take on Florida. Mizzou is coming off a win against Georgia but is still trying the get the bad taste of losing to Ole Miss last Saturday out of their mouth. Florida is on a five game winning streak, but has not really been tested in the SEC yet with wins over LSU, Georgia, and Texas A&M. This game may feature the best guard battle you'll see all year in Phil Pressey versus Kenny Boyton. Both guards are extremely talented and can take over a game. Inside look for the Gators' Patrick Young to bang with Alex Oriakhi, who has become quite a defensive presence in the paint.Prediction: Florida 69, Missouri 67

#6 Syracuse (16-1, 4-0) at #1 Louisville (16-1, 5-0) 4PM, ESPN: You don't even have to move from your sofa or change the channel after the SEC battle is over. At 4PM ESPN will have a Big East rivalry that will soon move to the ACC. Both teams are coming off big wins as Syracuse took care of Villanova and Louisville beat Connecticut. Russ Smith has been a player of the year candidate in my mind this season and the Cardinals will need another big performance from him and Peyton Siva to take down the Orange. Syracuse has plenty of fire power too with Michael Carter Williams. James Sutherland, and CJ Fair. But Sutherland is out academically for this one at least. This game may come down to the home-court advantage and could set up a huge rematch for March 2 in the Carrier Dome. This may be a game that could decided your seeding in March also.
Prediction: Louisville 73, Syracuse 66

#12 Creighton (17-1, 6-0) at Wichita State (16-2, 5-1), 4PM, ESPN2: If you're looking for a more mid-major pace to your day then flip over to ESPN2 at four o'clock. Gregg Marshall's Wichita State squad has been one of the most disrespected programs in the country this year. The Wheat Shockers have been banged up lately and battling injuries but they have only lost two games and have taken down VCU and Iowa and already have two conference road wins under their belt. Wichita State had a slip up last week at Evansville but they were missing big man Carl Hall who returned for the first time in over a month against Illinois State earlier this week. Hall was limited in that game but my get more time versus the Blue Jays. Creighton has been on a roll lead by the play of Doug McDermott. The Blue Jays have won 12 straight and McDermott is second in the country in scoring with 24 points per game. Can the Shockers and their home crowd help to throw off the hot shooting Blue Jays? We'll find out…
Prediction: Creighton 73, Wichita State 70

#21 Oregon (15-2, 4-0) at #24 UCLA (15-3, 5-0), 4PM, CBS: Remember when everyone was freaking out about Ben Howland's squad earlier this year? Well the Bruins have rebounded brilliantly and are back in the Top 25. Shabazz Muhammad has become the player many thought he would be averaging over 18 points per game and  Larry Drew II is looking like one of the country's best facilitators with 8 assists per game. Oregon has been a bit of a surprise this year lead by a solid core of four players in Dominic Artis, Damyean Dotson, EJ Singler, and Tony Woods. After beating USC on Thursday night the Ducks are looking to leave Los Angeles 2-0.
Prediction: UCLA 77, Oregon 70

#11 Ohio State (13-3, 3-1) at #18 Michigan State (15-3, 4-1), 6PM, Big Ten Network: With so many good teams in the Big Ten this year it seems as if these two have gotten lost in the shuffle, especially Michigan State. DeShaun Thomas has been great for the Buckeyes and is averaging over 20 points per game. Ohio State is also coming off a big win over rival Michigan last Sunday. Michigan State really hasn't been tested much in the Big Ten outside of their loss to Minnesota, so the Spartans 4-1 conference mark may be a bit misleading. Tom Izzo's squad can quiet the critics though with a big home win on Saturday night.
Prediction: Ohio State 65, Michigan State 60

#8 Gonzaga (17-1) at #13 Butler (15-2), 9PM, ESPN: The Zags and Bulldgos will be competing in mid-major fans dream on Saturday night at the historic Hinkle Fieldhouse. This is a late non-conference match up as both squads are in the midst of conference play. This should be a great game between two programs that grew their programs in similar fashions, both have been the Cinderella and worked their way up to the limelight. A win for either team could be a catalyst to bigger and better things in conference play or in the NCAA tournament. Kelly Olynyk and Kevin Pangos have the Zags looking like they could be a potential Final Four team. Brad Stevens' Butler squad has won 12 straight including knocking off #1 Indiana, the Bulldogs will need to be on their "A game" on their home court to keep that streak going, especially without leading scorer and sharpshooter Rotnei Clarke who is out with an injury.
Prediction: Gonzaga 74, Butler 70

 

College Hoops Weekend Preview: Nov 11

January 11, 2013 in Preview

Another exciting weekend of college hoops is about to tip off as conference play heats up across the country!

Friday:
Fairfield (10-6, 2-2) @ Loyola (MD) (11-5, 3-1), 7PM, ESPNU: Who doesn't love some Friday night MAACtion? This week's match up features a game that could have implications come March. The MAAC is one the country's most underrated conferences and it should be a four way dogfight between these two squads and Canisius and Iona to decide things. Sydney Johnson's Fairfield squad torched Canisius a week ago but then the Stags had a bad loss to Niagara their last time out. Loyola will be looking to win their third straight and get a leg up in the conference. The Greyhounds are lead by a talented scoring duo in Dylan Cormier and Erik Etherly, the two are combining for over 33 points per game.
Prediction: Loyola 63, Fairfield 59

Saturday:
#8 Minnesota (15-1, 3-0) @ #5 Indiana (14-1, 2-0), Noon, Big Ten Network: Two one loss teams battling in a conference clash, it doesn't get that much better in the Big Ten. Tubby Smith's Golden Gophers squad has been a bit of a surprise this year but they have four guys that can score at will. Trevor Mbakwe paces the Gophers on the defensive end and is one of the most tenacious guys you'll find in the paint. The question has to be, can the Gophers stop Cody Zeller, who is averaging nearly 17 points per game. This game could be a great one but Assembly Hall and the crowd could be a pretty big factor.
Prediction: Indiana 71, Minnesota 58

#1 Duke (15-0, 2-0) @ #20 NC State (13-2, 2-0), Noon, ESPN: It's hard to believe a two loss team isn't considered a success, but the Wolfpack definitely has not lived up to expectations thus far this year. Mark Gottfried's squad is going for their tenth straight win but fans still think they haven't been playing good ball. They get a chance Saturday to sway back public opinion as the nation's number one team comes to town.  We all know what Duke brings to the table, especially after thumping Clemson and limiting the Tigers to just 10 points in the first half this week. CJ Leslie, Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, and Richard Howell are all scoring at-will this year, but they'll need to step up their game to be the first to bring down the Blue Devils this year.
Prediction: NC State 75, Duke 70

 

College Hoops Weekend Primer: January 4-6

January 4, 2013 in Preview

Another great weekend of college hoops is on tap as most of the country's teams turn to conference play. We've got you covered with the best games to keep an eye this weekend around the country.

Friday
Memphis (9-3) vs Tennessee (8-3), 8PM, ESPN2: Both teams are a bit down this year and its not a Top 25 match up, but these two teams create a pretty bitter rivalry in the state of Tennessee. Earlier this week it was thought this would be the last match up in the series for quite some time but that seems to have been saved now. Oddly enough, this is Memphis' first true road game this year. They've played every game from the FedEx Forum this year besides the Battle 4 Atlantis tournament in November. Memphis is the more talented squad, but don't underestimate the scrappy Vols at home.
Prediction: Tennessee 65, Memphis 59

Saturday
#8 Ohio State (11-2) vs #11 Illinois (13-2), 2:15 PM, Big Ten Network: These two teams get a stern test in their first Saturday of conference play. Brandon Paul has been phenomenal for a better than expected Illini squad, but the whole team will be looking to bounce back after a bad loss in the conference opener at Purdue. Ohio State and Aaron Craft will be looking to move to 2-0 in the conference after taking down Nebraska earlier this week. Illinois has had some nail-biters at home this year against some questionable competition, so look for a tight one in Champagne.
Prediction: Ohio State 67, Illinois 63

#22 Oklahoma State (10-2) @ #25 Kansas State (11-2), 1:30 PM, ESPN3: You may have to go off the beaten path a little for this one but you likely will find it on some local sports channel. Neither of these teams had very high expectations coming into the year but both have found their way into the Top 25. Oklahoma State is coming off a heartbreaking loss to Gonzaga, but the 'Pokes have found quite a tandem in Le'Bryan Nash and Marcus Smart. They've proven they are good this year, but taking down the Wildcats in Manhattan may be statement showing their ready to challenge Kansas for the Big 12 title. First year Kansas State coach Bruce Weber also has quite a combo in Rodney McGruber and Angel Rodriguez. This has the ability to be the best game of the day, so if you can find it on your TV then watch it!
Prediction: Oklahoma State 57, Kansas State 55

College Hoops: Games to Watch this Weekend

December 28, 2012 in Preview

College hoops is finally coming out of the thaw that has been Christmas and will kick back into gear this weekend. What are key match ups to keep an eye on over the weekend?

Friday

Baylor (8-3) @ #13 Gonzaga (11-1), 8PM, ESPN2: Gonzaga gets set for a Big 12 two-step as they host Baylor before heading off to play #22 Oklahoma State. The Zags have been on top of their game this season and have been lead by Elias Harris and Kelly Olynyk who are combining for nearly 30 points per game. Tonight's game could be a breakout game for Kevin Pangos this year. The sophomore has been a bit up and down this year, but for the Zags to be successful on a national level they are going to need Pangos to perform at a high level. Baylor senior guard Pierre Jackson has been great this year averaging 19 points per game and over 6 assists. The Beats will need to lean on Jackson tonight to earn a big road win that could launch them back into the Top 25.
Prediction: Gonzaga 75, Baylor 67

#7 Missouri (10-1) @ UCLA (9-3), 10PM, ESPN2: After losing three out of five games Ben Howland's squad has rattled off four straight wins, but none have been even close to the competition of Missouri. Jordan Adams and Shabazz Muhammad will have to have career nights to take down the talented Tigers. For the Tigers, its about the talented trio of Phil Pressey, Laurence Bowers, and Jabari Brown. Frank Haith is still trying to mix some youngsters into his rotation but you should get a glimpse of what the Tigers are planning for SEC play tonight. This would be a big road win for Mizzou, but an even bigger win for the Bruins.
Prediction: UCLA 73, Missouri 71

Saturday

Kentucky (8-3) @ #4 Louisville (11-1), 5PM, CBS: This is definitely the game of the week despite Kentucky being outside of the Top 25. Cardinals fans can't wait to get revenge on John Caliapari and the Wildcats, and neither can Russ Smith and Peyton Siva. The pair of veteran guards are averaging over 30 points per game this year. Louisville will also get a shot in the arm with the return of big man Gorgui Dieng, who has been out due to injury since the Battle 4 Atlantis in late November.  For a young Kentucky squad this will be the most hostile environment they've seen yet and maybe the toughest they'll see all year. Their young freshman talent including Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythress, and Archie Goodwin cannot come out rattled. Guard Ryan Harrow may be the key for any chance for UK.
Prediction: Louisville 73, Kentucky 63

#20 UNLV (11-1) @ North Carolina (9-3), 2PM, ESPN2: After getting beat down by a weak Texas squad the Tar Heels dropped outside of the Top 25. They could claw their way back in and get revenge all in one game this Saturday. Last year UNLV shocked UNC in the desert 90-80 and Tar Heel fans have had this one circled ever since. The Heels will need a big game from James Michael McAdoo, but will need a team effort all around. UNC isn't as talented as they were a year ago, but the Rebels certainly are. Freshman Anthony Bennett is averaging nearly 20 points per game for UNLV and has been one of the nation's most overlooked players to this point.
Prediction: UNC 81, UNLV 77

University of Maryland Basketball Season Preview

November 7, 2012 in Preview

By Staff Writer John Manuel:

Taking a change of pace from the Redskins, Orioles, Nationals, Cerrato and college football talk.  I am excited for Friday's college basketball opener for the Maryland Terrapins.  Not only is it just the opener but it’s against the defending champions and newly reloaded Kentucky Wildcats.  It will obviously be a great test for Mark Turgeon's crew when they take the floor against Kentucky, but looking long term across the season I expect good things from this Maryland team and here's my 2012-13 Season Preview.

Starting at the top with Coach Turgeon, Terps fans have to be excited about the future of Maryland basketball.  To go from a legendary coach like Gary Williams and hopefully not miss a beat with Turgeon should keep Comcast Center one of the best venues in college basketball.  Turgeon not only took a suspect team and made them competitive last season but he also did it in a likable way.  Turgeon doesn't BS the media or the fans and tells it like it is.  More importantly he has quickly upgraded the talent base in a span of months and the future looks bright as he works with a strong coaching staff.

Much talk about Maryland will start with the loss of ACC leading scorer Terrell Stoglin.  He is gone and so are his points but you have to think that many in College Park are not that disappointed not having Stoglin on the roster.  Sophomore Nick Faust will obviously be the first one to be looked at to fill Stoglin's void.  Many expect Faust to have a breakout season but the challenge of playing multiple positions is there.  Faust will have to become more of consistent scorer than fellow Baltimore high school star Sean Mosley was.  Terps need Faust to be more Vasquez than Mosley.

The Terps also get the return of Pe'Shon Howard back from multiple major injuries in his sophomore season.  Howard may not be flashy and a big time scorer but he gives Turgeon a reliable leader on floor.  Something you need when you are looking to put a lot of new pieces together.  Howard is a fan favorite that deserves a solid and healthy season.

The Terps also add two new freshman wing players who should get plenty of minutes right away in Jake Layman and Seth Allen.  I feel that Allen is going to have some Juan Dixon type magic in him.  I am not saying he is going to be Dixon, maybe more of a Drew Nicholas type but he was Turgeon's first recruit and I think he found something in Allen.

As for Layman, he will be someone to watch grow all season.  And now it’s breaking that Dez Wells is eligible to play this season is a difference maker.  Wells will possibly be the team’s leading scorer since the NCAA has now done the right thing.  Turgeon also snagged an Albany transfer in shooter Logan Aronhalt to add much needed shooting depth lost with departure of Stoglin.

Up front the Terps could be strong especially on the boards.  Alex Len returns after getting acclimated to the college game as a freshman.  Now in more ACC ready shape, Len's game should improve as unfortunately NBA scouts will be watching.  Add returning senior James Padgett up front with Len and you have your returning front court.  I was very impressed with Padgett last season on how he improved his offensive game from his first two seasons.  The Terps added much needed front court size also in solid recruits Shaq Cleare and Charles Mitchell.  Cleare is the more heralded, but Mitchell dominated the boards last week versus IUP.  Both of these guys should get plenty of run with the departure of Ashton Pankey.

As for the schedule and the outlook, after Kentucky, the Terps do not have a strong non-conference schedule heading up to ACC play.  The team should be able to build up some wins unlike past seasons before facing the ACC teams.

And to me the ACC doesn't look as strong as in the past, but many have said that in recent years and have been mistaken.  NC State sits in the preseason top 10 and Duke and UNC are Duke and UNC.  In the final year of the 12 team ACC I think the Terps can challenge for the top 4 spots and the ACC first round tournament bye.

I think this is a NCAA tournament team and if Dez Wells is deemed eligible I am willing to call it a lock barring major injuries.  Turgeon and his staff have this program heading the right way.  I got 20-11 and a return to the NCAA's after a strong showing in the ACC Tournament.

 

 

National Championship Preview: Kentucky vs. Kansas

April 1, 2012 in Final Four, Preview, Recaps

The University of Kentucky has been able to defend its No. 1 overall seed against different styles, different sizes, and different opponents. Last night against Louisville, they were a bit flustered by the Cardinals' match-up zone, but prevailed because of superior size and skill — despite being out-rebounded, 37-32. Kansas, meanwhile, seemingly came out of nowhere early in the season, gained momentum throughout the campaign and has put an exclamation point on its tournament performance by defeating the University of North Carolina and the Ohio State University in the Midwest Regional Final and national semifinal, respectively, to reach the opportunity to square off with Kentucky for the national title tomorrow night just after 9 p.m.

The Wildcats and Jayhawks, the two winningest programs in the history of college basketball, have only met twice in the tournament since 1985– an 88-76 Kansas win in the 2007 second round and a 92-88 Kentucky win, also in the 1999 second round. Kentucky leads the all-time series, 20-6, including a 75-65 win on Nov. 15. Their season-long averages are quite similar: Kansas averaged 73.9 points per game and allowed 61.6, while Kentucky scored 77.6 points per game and allowed 60.6.

Kansas has the offensive pedigree and defensive ability to match Kentucky like no other opponent has this tournament — or this season, for that matter. Louisville may has provided a blueprint for Kansas to beat the Wildcats, especially if the Jayhawks' triangle-and-two zone can reek havoc and if Kentucky's Michael Kidd-Gilchrist ends up in foul trouble, which he did against the Cardinals.

Self, who today was named the Naismith Men's College Basketball Coach of the Year, can unleash a big man (Thomas Robinson) that can give the Wildcats' all-world freshman Anthony Davis the most difficult night of his career. Robinson, after all, scored 19 points in his battle with Ohio State's Jared Sullinger last night. It's very possible that Davis, Robinson and Sullinger will be in the NBA next season along with a several others playing in the title tilt.

Like many other opponents of Kentucky this season, Kansas must execute perfectly and convert on a large number of their shots. They made 44.6 percent of their shots against Ohio State, but were down 34-25 at halftime. Overcoming a similar halftime deficit against Kentucky might not be as feasible. They out-rebounded Ohio State, 41-30, something they must repeat against Kentucky.

Kentucky, meanwhile, just needs to keep doing what it's been doing all season. They simply have overcome every challenge and swatted away every opponent. Yes, they lost to Indiana in December and Vanderbilt two weeks ago (in the SEC tournament final played across the street from the Superdome), but it seems that the magic has never left the Wildcats' paws. Kansas may provide the most valiant challenge to Kentucky's ascension to basketball immortality, but in the end, it appears the Wildcats will capture its first championship since 1998 and John Calipari his first title.

Final predicted score: Kentucky 75, Kansas 71.