It’s a fact of life in college athletics, that no matter how much one player is associated with a particular university, and vice versa, you’re only going to get, at most, four good years out of him, after which point you’ll have to move on. Nevermind the fact that you’ll look at the Notre Dame squad this season and swear that Luke Harangody is still on the team, the face of the program, the man unimaginatively-nicknamed “Gody” has moved on. But, as every college team must realize sooner or later, life goes on, and luckily for the Irish, they got an early taste at the end of last season as to what life without their team leader would be like, and the glimpse they got wasn’t so bad. After Harangody went down with a bone bruise in February, head coach Mike Brey had the Irish switch from a fairly umtempo offense to a “Burn offense,” a slow-paced offense designed to limit possessions and conserve energy for the defensive end. The change in strategy brought the Irish back from the brink of elimination to garner a six-seed in the NCAA Tournament.

However, Harangody isn’t the only piece of the puzzle that is missing, and he may not even be the most important, as point guard Tory Jackson has moved on as well. While Jackson was not a great shooter, he was a serious gamer, a team leader and a hard worker whose absence leaves the Irish without a true point guard with experience. Senior Ben Hansbrough, however, is a capable ball handler and a good distributor of the ball; he finished with over four assists a game last season – a strong figure for a guy whose main strength is knocking down shots from the perimeter. While not a true point, it is possible that Hansbrough will handle lead guard responsibilities next year, particularly alongside a starting lineup that will feature several players with the ability to be secondary ballhandlers. If the Irish need a more traditional point guard on the court, freshman Eric Atkins will be the guy to call on – a skinny dribble-drive guard who excels in transition and is capable of getting penetration and finding shooters on the wing, a good skill to have when paired with the type of shooters the Irish have. While Atkins needs to add more strength to live up to his potential, he will definitely be called on for some serious minutes in his first year on campus. Another option in the backcourt is sophomore guard Joey Brooks, who is more of a shooting guard, but capable of taking over some ballhandling duties. Brooks is an athletically gifted big guard (6-5) who has the ability to be an excellent defender, a strength that could earn him serious minutes against skilled twos.

The rest of the starting lineup could be made up of similarly sized players, all in the 6-7 or 6-8 range, with versatile skill sets and the ability to play two or three different positions. Among those will be senior forward Tim Abromaitis, who came out of the woodwork to turn into a great asset for the Irish last season, when he ranked in the top 20 in the nation in true shooting percentage and in the top 40 in effective field goal percentage. A deadly shooter, he can also handle a bit and put the ball on the floor some. Fellow senior Tyrone Nash started every game last season for Notre Dame and will likely be called on to do so again. He is more of a post-up threat and tough rebounder (although not a traditional post-man by any means) than the others in this discussion, and he is not a shooter from range at all. Junior Carleton Scott is also in this group, a long and bouncy athletic wing with a bit of an outside shot and a penchant for spectacular rebounds. Finally, there is junior Scott Martin, a transfer from Purdue whose Notre Dame career got off to a terrible start when he tore up his ACL before playing a minute in an Irish uniform last season, after spending the previous season watching as his penance for transferring. Martin is an inside/outside threat with ballhandling skills and range out beyond the arc. A starting lineup pairing these four players with Hansbrough wouldn’t make the most traditional lineup, but each of the “bigs” (comparatively speaking) in this lineup is a good rebounder and can help out with the ballhandling duties. Trouble may come for this lineup against teams with big, physical interior players or even quick, harassing defensive guards. More likely, three of these guys form a front-line, paired with Atkins and Hansbrough in the backcourt.

If the Irish are looking for more beef up front to bang with opposing post players, the Harangody look-alike Jack Cooley is among those waiting to be called upon. After the injury to Harangody last season, Cooley, a grinding scrapper of a rebounder, was one of those who stepped up to fill the void, with fellow sophomore Mike Broghammer chipping in too. Neither player showed a ton of offensive polish, but any improvement combined with their hustle and energy will be welcomed.  There is also redshirt freshman Tom Knight, the Maine Mr. Basketball from 2009.

Additionally, Brey has two other incoming freshmen, both of whom will have to impress to earn minutes early in their careers.  Off-guard Jerian Grant is a athletic slashing scorer and a tough defender, while wing Alex Dragivech is a point-forward type with three-point range. It is possible both will redshirt, given all the experienced depth around them, but Brey has shown an ability to bring players off a red-shirt year and have them make a big splash, with guys like Abromaitis and Scott as excellent examples.

While some four-year stars are gone from South Bend, what remains on the roster is a versatile group who will give Brey plenty of options, perhaps combining some of the Burn offense with up-tempo style of seasons past. Given the way the Irish played at the end of last season, and given that the Big East, while still a tough league, doesn’t seem to have as many elite teams as in recent years, the Irish should be right in the mix for a second straight NCAA Tournament bid.

All the main cogs in the most recent run of success for the Marquette basketball program are now officially gone, with Lazar Hayward graduating and heading to the NBA as a first round pick. With Wes Matthews already in the NBA and Dominic James and Jerel McNeal playing professionally elsewhere (although McNeal’s first professional season ended badly), and even scrappy little guards Maurice Acker and David Cubillan now ex-Warriors (errrrrrr… Golden Eagles? – nah, screw that, they’re still the Warriors to me), Marquette has had plenty of familiar faces in their short time in the Big East (they began play in the conference in 2005) and have had plenty of success (five years in the Big East, five NCAA tournament berths). However, as Buzz Williams enters his third season as the head coach, there is little doubt that this is his team and his program now, no longer just the remnants of what Tom Crean left behind. Sure, the style of play will be similar, and many of the players will seem to be guys that have played at Marquette forever, but then again, aren’t all Marquette basketball players just scrappy members of a pack of pit bulls?

While there is definitely a feeling of change in the air, the pantry isn’t empty and there is exciting fresh new blood coming in. Seniors Jimmy Butler and Darius Johnson-Odom return and will be asked to take on leadership roles on a roster with six new faces. Butler is the team’s leading returning scorer and rebounder and their most skilled and efficient offensive player. He knocked down 16 of his 32 three-point attempts last season, and will likely be asked to shoot more from range, although his strength is really his mid-range game and his ability to attack the hoop. Johnson-Odom was a bomber for the Warriors in the JuCo transfer’s first season, with just under half of his field goal attempts (and he was second on the team in FGAs with 334) coming from three-point range, and just under half of those 3PAs going in (he shot 47% from three). Both players will be in the starting lineup for the Warriors, but it remains to be seen exactly where they will play, although it is probable that Williams will not have the luxury of going with a traditional lineup. Johnson-Odom will get plenty of play at the two-guard, but he may not be the only two-guard in the lineup. And Butler has a chance to be the four-man in the starting lineup, despite the fact that he is in no way a power forward.

Aside from Johnson-Odom and Butler, the rest of the starting lineup is probably up for grabs. There are a couple of true point guards on the team (6-1 sophomore Junior Cadougan, coming off a torn Achilles’, and 6-1 freshman Reggie Smith), but neither of them has a lock on the starting spot there. Freshman Vander Blue, the most highly regarded of the six-player recruiting class, is more of an off-guard, but could possibly win the job by default. Blue is a high-flying, slashing athlete, who will likely eventually play the two, but he could handle the one-spot while Cadougan recovers from his injury and Smith, a strong and physical penetrating guard, learns how to run the point and initiate offense. If Cadougan is healthy and returns to form, he could just come out and win the job and save everyone a lot of worry, in which case maybe Blue winds up as the third guard alongside Cadougan and Johnson-Odom. Another option in the backcourt is senior guard Dwight Buycks, a JuCo transfer like DJO, a quick, slashing, undersized off-guard. Buycks may not earn a starting spot, but he will get plenty of run. Freshman off-guard D.J. Newbill is also in the mix for some minutes; he is a strong and physical combo guard who is more of a below-the-rim scorer than any great shakes as an athlete or a shooter.

As there is no point guard with a lock on a starting job, there is no true center with a lead on that starting spot. Sophomore Chris Otule and incoming freshman Davante Gardner are both plenty big enough to play the post, but Gardner will need to work on getting in shape (at last check, he had worked hard to get down to 295 pounds) and Otule is unproven. But, Marquette has had great success with players playing out of position, so the “big” guys for Marquette could consist of Butler along with either senior forward Joseph Fulce or sophomore forward Erik Williams winning a spot. Other options up front include a couple intriguing newcomers: 6-6 JuCo transfer Jae Crowder and 6-6 freshman wing Jamail Jones. Crowder has been compared favorably to the departed Hayward: a good-sized forward with the toughness to scrap inside and the skill to step outside. Jones is more of a pure three-man: silky smooth, nice midrange game, range out to the arc. Both will likely see their share of playing time.

While there remain questions as to exactly which roles which players will play, there is plenty of talent up and down the roster. They will, however, need somebody to step up as a leader and corral the disparate newcomers. Between Johnson-Odom and Butler, that should get done, and with guys like Cadougan, Blue, Crowder, Jones and Buycks playing key roles, the Warriors cum Golden Eagles could compete for a tournament berth. But there is enough youth and just enough uncertainty on this squad to leave them with little room for error.
Things have not been particularly good for Rick Pitino in the past year or so. Sure, there were the, um, “personal issues” from last summer that made it into the news and caused him, his family and his employer great embarrassment. But perhaps more important for the college basketball fan, and Louisville fans specifically, he has had some high profile recruiting failures of late as well. Pitino has made little secret of the fact that he has been aiming for a big recruiting class for 2011, but got bad news earlier this offseason when Marquis Teague, the number four ranked recruit in the ’11 class, announced his commitment to John Calipari and Kentucky. On the heels of that came Samardo Samuels’ announcement that he would remain in the NBA draft despite signs pointing towards him going undrafted, or at the very least getting picked in the second round and not receiving a guaranteed contract. While Samuels never fully lived up to his billing at Louisville, he’ll still be a major loss for this Cardinal team. He averaged a team high 15.3 ppg and 7.0 rpg last season and will leave a hole in the interior for the Cards.

Junior power forward Terrence Jennings should be first in line to take Samuels spot in the middle. Jennings is a great athlete and an excellent defender, especially sending opposition shots back, but is still very raw offensively. Junior small forward Jared Swopshire can be expected to start alongside Jennings in the frontcourt. Swopshire is along and skinny who is constantly in need of more strength, but he is a versatile player with good athleticism, a nose for the ball and range out to the three-point line. When the game calls for more toughness up front, sophomore Rakeem Buckles may get the first call. Buckles didn’t get a ton of minutes as a freshman, but he is probably the best rebounder on the team, and may even be more polished offensively than Jennings (faint praise, I know), with a nice little jump hook and a monster finisher around the rim. Additional returning frontcourt help will be offered by junior George Goode and sophomore Stephan Van Treese.

In the backcourt, Cardinal mainstays like Edgar Sosa and Jerry Smith have moved on, so sophomore point guard Peyton Siva, a highly touted recruit who didn’t get a ton of run as a freshman, will need to be ready to contribute. Siva made his name as a high-schooler in Seattle for being a true point, with plenty of defensive quickness and three-point range, but turned the ball over far too much in his first season to ever earn Pitino’s trust. If Siva is able to earn a starting spot, he’ll likely join senior guard Preston Knowles in the backcourt. Knowles is an excellent perimeter defender, and combined with Siva could present opposing ballhandlers with serious problems. Knowles is also capable of initiating offense, and while not a spectacular offensive player, is solid. Sophomore guard Mike Marra, a dead-eye shooter, can challenge for a starting spot, especially if the Cards again run a three-guard offense, but more likely will be asked to provide a spark off the bench. Junior Kyle Kuric, a good mix of surprising athleticism and a nice jumper, will also be in the mix in the back court. Both Marra and Kuric came up with big games at big times for the Cards last season, with Marra providing four threes in the first of Louisville’s upsets of Syracuse and Kuric adding 22 points on four threes and four dunks in a stretch of just under 14 minutes in their second upset of the Orange in the final game ever played at Freedom Hall.

Pitino does have some reinforcements coming in as well to add to the existing talent. The most ready to play immediately is small forward Justin Coleman, a superior athlete with a ton of ways to score in the lane. It is likely that he’ll see minutes right away (and speaking of right away, the Cardinals open their season and their new arena by hosting the Butler Bulldogs at the KFC Yum! Center on November 16), and could even wind up with a starting spot provided he makes a commitment on the defensive end. Center Gorgui Dieng is a 6-10 recruit from Senegal and a prep school teammate of Coleman’s. Dieng, like many recruits out of Africa, is somewhat raw offensively, but a terrific shotblocker. The final two recruits in this year’s class are 5’11 point guards: Russell Smith and Elisha Justice. Justice is a true point with great court awareness and vision, a potentially underrated recruit that could make a splash in college. Smith, however, is more of a scoring point (and a confident one at that), a guy who needs the ball in his hands to be effective and is able to create for himself off the dribble. He’ll likely need to get stronger before he gets a lot of playing time and is a good candidate for a redshirt, especially after undergoing relatively minor knee surgery this offseason.

Finally, for now, there is also talk that former Memphis guard Roburt Sallie is in the process of transferring, and that Louisville (along with Indiana) is a possibility for his final destination. Sallie has one year of eligibility remaining and will be able to play immediately wherever he winds up, since he already has his undergraduate degree. Sallie is a streaky shooter and fine athlete who could definitely help Pitino find some points from somewhere.

There is less apparent talent on this Louisville team than there has been in a long while, and 2010-11 will be a good chance to see just how good of a coach Pitino is. He’ll need to get major improvement out of Siva and Jennings, and even then, will need to patch together some lineups and hope for outbursts from guys like Kuric and Marra again. The Cards will not compete for a Big East title, and may be far closer to the bubble than anyone associated with the program is comfortable with, but I see them sneaking in the back-end of the tournament, and maybe even playing in our first go-round with the bubble team play-in games.

I've got an extra James Anderson draft profile, get your extra James Anderson draft profile. One for $2, three for $5!

Anyway, on top of this one, there are several other draft profiles sitting over at RTC, but I wanted to publish this one as well, since I actually think Anderson will have a pretty strong and long NBA career.

Player Name: James Anderson
School: Oklahoma State
Height: 6'6
Weight: 208
NBA Position: Shooting Guard
Projected Draft Range: Mid-first round

Overview: Last season at Oklahoma State, James Anderson was clearly “the guy”. Aside from playing over 34 minutes a night, he was used on almost a third of the Cowboy possessions, and despite the high usage, was extremely efficient, scoring 1.23 points per possession. While Anderson came to Stillwater with the reputation as just a spot-up shooter, over the last couple of seasons he has added to his repertoire. Now he can run off screens for the catch-and-shoot three, he can put the ball on the floor and hit the pull-up three, he can slash to the hoop and he has even added some post-up game, a useful tool for a guy with good size for a two-guard. Basically, if it comes to putting the ball in the hoop, Anderson is very adept at it. While he is not an athletic freak with astounding leaping ability, he is a crafty scorer, able to get to his spots on the floor, and once there, able to knock down shots with deadly accuracy.

Will Translate to the NBA: At any level of basketball, guys that can put the ball in the basket on a regular basis are highly sought after. While Anderson may not have off-the-charts athleticism, he is an off-the-charts shooter with gorgeous form on his jumper and better yet, he has turned into a very efficient scorer; he can score in a variety of crafty ways, moves well without the ball, cuts off screens effectively, even a quick dribble into a pull-up jumper over his man. As the focal point of the Oklahoma State offense, drawing plenty of attention from the opposing defense, Anderson still shot 46% from the field and 34% from three, numbers that were down from the 48% and 41% he shot as a sophomore. Even his free throw percentage was down as a junior, decreasing to a still-exceptional 81%, although the fact that Anderson got to the line an excellent 9.2 times per 40 minutes as a junior is a nice cherry on top. Away from the focus of double teams and junk defenses, however, expect Anderson’s percentages to go back up across the board.

Needs Work: The biggest knock against Anderson is his defense. While not the type of elite athlete that is a competent defender just by showing up, Anderson is capable of playing far better defense that he did last season at OSU. Too often, Anderson seemed disinterested on the defensive end, allowing lesser opponents to drive past him. Anderson also shied away from any physicality on the defensive end, a trait that perhaps can be explained away by his need to remain out of foul trouble in order to best help his team, but Anderson will need to prove himself anew as a defender in the NBA, an even tougher task given that the level of competition that Anderson will face nightly is about to skyrocket. Offensively, Anderson is pretty complete, but could certainly tighten up his ballhandling skills. While he took very good care of the ball in college (especially for a guy with a ton of offensive touches), additional competency with the ball could go a long way towards mitigating his lack of an explosive first step.

Comparison Players: The James Harden comparison has made the rounds, and we find it fairly apt. Like Harden, Anderson is more of a crafty scorer than a wow machine. However, Harden is bigger and bulkier than Anderson, and probably not as good of a pure shooter. A better comparison may be Michael Redd; both players have a similar frame and a similar game. Redd was undervalued in his draft class, picked 43rd in the 2000 draft, but has made a career out of knocking down open looks with his quick release, even sneaking into a NBA All-Star game in 2004. Given Anderson’s penchant for scoring, if he winds up in a similar situation, an All-Star game or two is not out of the question.

Best Case Scenario: Anderson winds up on a team with a penetrating point guard and a post-up threat, allowing him to be a good second – or even third – option, running the wing and spotting up for clean looks. Early in his career he commits to improving his defensive game and while he never quite gets any votes for the all-defensive team, is also not a liability on that end of the court. If Anderson can just get to passable defensively, he could be ready for some serious NBA minutes immediately, ideally supplying a burst of scoring energy as one of the first guys off the bench as a rookie. By the middle of his career, he is a starter capable of scoring 20 a night, and at least garnering All-Star consideration in the right situation. As far as wins and losses goes, he could wind up in one of two situations: scoring a ton of points for a lower-tier team or knocking down clutch jumpers as a third option for a perennial playoff team.

2013 Projection: Anderson is a good enough athlete to patch up whatever deficiencies he may have on the defensive end, and by his third season, there is no reason he can’t be a capable NBA defender. More importantly, that shooting touch isn’t going anywhere, and his ability to pour in points will get him minutes. While there will surely be some time needed for him to adjust to the speed of the new league, by his third season you should see the Anderson that will spend a decade or more scoring for a living in the NBA. A lot will depend on his situation, but Anderson could be knocking down 18-20 ppg before the ink on his contract is dry.

Best NBA Fit: Chicago at #17 looks perfect for Anderson. With Derrick Rose running the offense and frontcourt cogs like Joakim Noah and Luol Deng locked in with the Bulls for years to come, Anderson would fit in almost immediately as a scorer off the bench with a spot in the starting lineup awaiting him just as soon as his defense is up to snuff. And with the young Bulls on the rise, Anderson could be a key ingredient on Chicago teams that are playing deep into late spring for years to come.



The last time we saw Georgetown, they were getting embarrassed by the 14th-seeded Ohio Bobcats in the middle of an epic first round of the NCAA Tournament. While the Hoyas shot over 50% from the field and hit the glass, they were unable to control Ohio’s backcourt as the Hoyas fell by 14 in a stunning upset. With Greg Monroe headed to the NBA, the 2010-11 Hoya team will have quite a different feel than the previous incarnations of the program under John Thompson III. Without a go-to post-player, senior backcourt mates Austin Freeman and Chris Wright will not only be the team leaders, they will be the go-to guys offensively.

Freeman grew into that role last season, despite a brief interruption in the middle of the season when he was diagnosed with diabetes. But he showed his ability to take over games and carry his team when necessary. Against Connecticut in early January, just a couple days after the Hoyas second loss of the season, Freeman broke out for a 28-point second half to bring Georgetown back from a 15-point first-half deficit and an important win. Later in the season it was a 24-point second half to bring the visiting Hoyas back against Louisville and stop a two-game losing streak in its tracks. By now Hoya fans should expect Freeman to be there for them whenever times get tough, but as a senior he’ll have to do those things, even when the opposition is keying on him.

Wright has shown flashes of brilliance in his college career, but hasn’t been consistent, capable of following up a four-point performance in an early-season upset loss to Old Dominion with a 34-point outburst in the next game against Harvard. Wright will have to develop into a guy who can be relied upon every night for the Hoyas to live up to their potential. If Thompson’s coaching style from last season is to be repeated, Wright will again get plenty of playing time: he played under 34 minutes just eight times in 09-10, and even then just once in the last 16 games.

The only other senior expected to earn playing time for the Hoyas is 6-10 big man Julian Vaughn, a raw offensive player who contributes by clogging the lane defensively, blocking some shots and grabbing some boards. He was an improved player last season, and another small leap forward, possibly including a successful post move here and there, would be a very welcome addition.

Junior guard Jason Clark will likely join the three seniors in the starting lineup as a third guard. Clark is a good athletic defender with long arms and the ability to knock down an open jumper when needed.

The fifth member of the starting lineup is still to be determined, but sophomore forward Hollis Thompson may be the guy. The 6-6 Thompson is not particularly big, but is a good athlete that is more suited to the wing position than playing inside. If JTIII is more interested in a post-player to pair along with Vaughn, perhaps 6-10 junior center Henry Sims will get a look. However, Sims is awfully similar to Vaughn in that neither is a particularly grave offensive threat.  The third possibility is incoming freshman Nate Lubick, who is a versatile and athletic forward. Lubick will fit in well in the Georgetown offense, and even if he doesn’t wind up starting immediately, should get plenty of time in his first year in D.C.

While Thompson didn’t go very deep on his bench last season, both Jerrelle Benimon and Vee Sanford got spot duty as freshmen, and should compete for minutes in their second seasons. Benimon is a hard-working rebounder and defender in the front court, while Sanford is a quick little scorer in the backcourt. Pressing those two for minutes will also be a trio of freshmen in addition to Lubick: point guard Markel Starks (a quick point guard that can light it up – potentially the point guard of the future, but his minutes as a freshman may be limited), wing Aaron Bowen (an athletic, undersized wing who may need to grow into some minutes) and center Moses Abraham (another offensively raw post-player for Thompson to work with – he can contribute the same type of defensive intensity and rebounding that Vaughn and Sims can already provide).

After a wild couple of weeks, it looks like conference realignment is done, for now. I still expect that the Big Ten has some more tricks up its sleeve, but they may wait until next offseason to break them out. My wrap up of the winners and losers of conference realignment is up at RTC.

Previously there was also my post after Texas made it official and pulled back from the conference expansion ledge and remained in the Big 12 (or Little 12, or Big 10-But Not The One That Plays in the Rose Bowl, or Big 12-Lite, or Texas and the nine dwarfs).

Also coming up in the next couple of days at RTC, will be more of my draft profiles (upcoming Elliot Williams, Ed Davis, Solomon Alabi and Damion James), with a whole host of other draft profiles from all the great writers at Rush the Court. Check out all the draft profiles here.

And, with conference expansion no longer taking up the vast majority of my attention, I'm looking forward to picking back up where I left off with conference-by-conference team previews. In fact, look for a Georgetown preview in just a little bit.
This stuff is coming fast and furious, and in anticipation of another crazy week, just to recap where we stood as of Friday night.

There has been some more news over the weekend, such as a last-ditch effort by Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe to keep the Big 12 together, all while Texas A&M hitches up it's skirt to show a little more leg to the SEC, but we expect to know by Tuesday night at the latest whether the Pac-16 will be reality or whether it will be the Pac-12 with Utah joining up and the MWC basically just substituting Boise State for the Utes.

And, of course, we expect there to be a surprise or two along the way and more than a couple wild rumors.
As we head towards summer, we’re starting to get a good feel for some of the non-conference games we’ll see next season. Last week, we had a couple more tournament and special events announce their fields, or at least part of their fields.

The Las Vegas Invitational announced a field of Kansas, Arizona, Santa Clara and Ohio U. The headliner matchup is obviously the Kansas/Arizona matchup, which will be played on the evening of November 27 at the Orleans Arena.

And, speaking of Kansas, rough news for the Jayhawks the last couple of days. Aside from being an absolute afterthought in conference expansion/realignment talk, they reported last week that incoming freshman Josh Selby had broken an arm and would be out 4-6 weeks, then at the alumni basketball game, Marcus Morris bruised his back and had to be carried off the court, while minutes later Markieff Morris and Thomas Robinson collided with each other and came up bleeding, Robinson with a broken nose and Morris with a cut in his mouth that required three stitches.

Elsewhere, the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic announced the schools that will host the regional round of their “tournament”: Illinois, Maryland, Pittsburgh, and Texas. Each school will host two games against lesser schools before advancing to the semifinals (regardless of the outcomes of the regional round games) in Madison Square Garden on November 18 and 19. The matchups for the semifinals have not yet been announced, but it would seem that Pitt/Maryland and Illinois/Texas would make the most sense in the semis, as Pitt should be the highest ranked of those four teams and Maryland the lowest. A good set of games though, however.

The SEC-Big East Invitational announced its matchups as well, a couple of double-headers in December. The first set of doubleheaders will take place on December 8th in Louisville, with Arkansas and Seton Hall serving as the warm-up for Notre Dame and Kentucky. Pittsburgh will host the other doubleheader at its place, with Auburn and Rutgers squaring off in the preliminary bout and Tennessee taking on the Panthers for the nightcap on December 11th. Of the four games, the Pitt/Tennessee game looks to be by far the highlight.

The ACC/Big Ten Challenge matchups have already been announced. On Monday, November 29th, Virginia will travel to Minnesota for the opening game. On November 30th, North Carolina at Illinois will highlight a slate of five games, with Ohio State at Florida State, Michigan at Clemson, Georgia Tech at Northwestern and Iowa at Wake Forest filling out the night. The games for December 1st are highlighted by what figures to be the best non-conference game of the season, Michigan State (with or without Tom Izzo) traveling to Durham to face the reigning champion Duke Blue Devils. However, there are a couple of other really intriguing games that night, with Purdue traveling to Virginia Tech and Wisconsin hosting a young and hopeful N.C. State team. Indiana at Boston College and Maryland at Penn State round out the schedule. Miami will be the ACC team sitting out the challenge this year, but maybe they can schedule a matchup with Nebraska, just for fun.

The Big 12/Pac-10 Hardwood Series matchups have also already been announced, and in the wake of the Pac-16 rumors, this series should have added significance this year. The UCLA/Kansas matchup on Thursday, December 2nd stands out as a matchup between two perennial powers, but UCLA will have to show some severe improvement to stand up to the Jayhawks this season. Other very interesting matchups include Arizona State at Baylor (on the 2nd as well) and Washington at Texas A&M on December 11th. The rest of the schedule includes USC/Nebraska (Nov. 27), Missouri/Oregon (Dec. 2), Kansas State/Washington State (Dec. 3), Oregon State/Colorado, Cal/Iowa State, Texas Tech/ Washington (all on Dec. 4), Texas/USC, Oklahoma/Arizona (both on Dec. 5) and Stanford/Oklahoma State on Dec. 21.

Other tournaments in the style of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic (run by the Gazelle Group, which has an apparent aversion to running fair win-and-advance tournaments, after the Kentucky/Gardner-Webb upset of a couple years back), in which four teams host regional round games at their places before advancing to a semifinal round (regardless of the outcomes of the early rounds) at a neutral site include the CBE Classic and the Legend’s Classic. While the format of the tournament is not ideal, they certainly get good fields (and why not, guaranteed gimme-games at home and guaranteed schedule-booster neutral site games). The CBE features Duke, Gonzaga, Kansas State and Marquette, while the Legend’s features Georgia Tech, Michigan, Syracuse and UTEP. Clearly the CBE is the better of those two fields, with a potential Duke/Kansas State final, although all four of those matchups figure to be intriguing. The Legend’s field lacks a really top-tier team (although, I’ve counted out Boeheim’s teams far too early in the past, and I wouldn’t doubt that I’m doing it again now), however the names on the unis will certainly look impressive.

The strongest field of the traditional tournaments looks to be the Maui Invitational. Headlined by Kentucky and Michigan State, the field also includes the host Chaminade as well as Connecticut, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wichita State. While no bracket has been released a UConn/Kentucky, Michigan State/Washington set of semifinals looks pretty inviting.

Of the other ESPN-sponsored preseason tournaments, the best belongs to the second iteration of the Diamond Head Classic, to be held around Christmas. The event features two of last year’s Elite Eight in Butler and Baylor, with Florida State, Hawaii, Mississippi State, San Diego, Utah and Washington State rounding out the field.

The rest of the ESPN tourneys are good, not great. The Old Spice Classic features Boston College, California, Georgia, Manhattan, Notre Dame, Temple, Texas A&M and Wisconsin. We’ll get a first good look at Steve Donahue’s BC club, with likely two of Temple, Texas A&M or Wisconsin matching up in the final.

The 76 Classic field is Cal State Northridge, DePaul, Murray State, Oklahoma State, Stanford, Tulsa, UNLV and Virginia Tech make up the field, with Murray State having replaced Penn State, which withdrew due to scheduling concerns. UNLV, Virginia Tech and Oklahoma State look to be the strongest teams in the field, and it would make sense that those three and Murray State would be matched up to potentially play in the second round, with perhaps UNLV and Virginia Tech on opposite sides of the bracket for a potential final matchup.

The Puerto Rico Tip-Off has North Carolina as the highlight, but West Virginia, Vanderbilt and Minnesota will also bring some interest. Davidson, Hofstra, Nebraska and Western Kentucky round out that field.

The Charleston Classic is still in the process of building its field, but so far Charlotte, East Carolina, George Mason, Georgetown, N.C. State and Wofford make up the rest of the field with two teams still to be determined. The field is off to a good start however, with a Georgetown/NC State final being an intriguing possibility.

And finally for the ESPN-sponsored events, there will also be a new tournament this year, the Cancun Governor’s Cup,held between December 22-24 and featuring a field of Appalachian State, Colorado State, East Tennessee State, Ole Miss, Northeastern, Saint Louis, Southern Miss and Texas State.

In other tournaments, the NIT Season Tip-Off has not been officially announced, but it has been reported that Tennessee, UCLA and Villanova will be the headliners of the field. While the semifinals of this tournament will be played at Madison Square Garden, this is a traditional tournament in which the teams have to, you know, actually win their early round games to advance, so it remains to be seen if UCLA will even get to New York.

The Paradise Jam is made up of Alabama, Clemson, Iowa, Long Beach State, Old Dominion, Seton Hall, Saint Peters and Xavier, a decent field with the potential for a mid-major delight in the finals, with Xavier and Old Dominion perhaps the favorites there.

The Chicago Invitational will include Purdue, Richmond, Southern Illinois and Wright State, and could feature an interesting Purdue/Richmond final.

The Great Alaska Shooutout is a shadow of its former self, but at least was able to get eight teams for this season’s edition after a field of just six teams last year. Arizona State and St. John’s are the biggest names here, with host Alaska-Anchorage joining Ball State, Drake, Houston Baptist, Southern Utah and Weber State.

The Cancun Challenge has not completed their field yet, but have announced La Salle, Northern Iowa, North Florida, Providence and Wyoming so far with three more schools to come.

There will also be the South Padre Island Invitational, but all I can find on that so far is that Texas Tech will be in the field.

Me, I’ll be at the 76 Classic, but one of these year’s I’ve gotta do the Maui Invitational. Although, as much as I love college basketball, knowing I could be snorkeling in the Pacific after a quick trip through the gymnasium doors would be a distracting proposition. Maybe it would be best to save Maui for the offseason.


Obviously, things have been going crazy on the conference expansion front the last couple of days. I've got a couple of posts up in the last couple days at RTC on the issue, just never had a chance to post them over here. Consider that done now.

The newest one is about today's official announcement of Colorado joining the Pac-10, and assorted other news.

Then there is yesterday's behemoth about the Nebraska news and the pending Big 12 six headed to the Pac-10.

And a couple days earlier, a run-down of all the rumors, most of which are either outdated or confirmed or both by this point.

And, aside from conference expansion, there was a quick little draft profile on Gani Lawal.

I'm hoping to have some time in the next couple of days to pick back up with my Big East previews (Georgetown is on deck), and some other stuff, including more draft profiles and some early looks at next season's pre-season schedules.
I've got another article up over at Rush the Court dealing with the rumors this week about the Pac-10 potentially inviting six Big 12 members to join up and create the first in a potential string of new NCAA superconferences.

This is the most recent article in a series, detailing the rumors and conjecture surrounding Big Ten expansion and effect it could have on other conferences. Others in the series include a wrap-up of the Big East spring meetings, analysis of the ACC's new television deal with ESPN, a look at the potential for a Pac-10/Big 12 alliance, and the original piece in the series, an overview of several of the different scenarios that could result from Big Ten expansion.

And, while you're over there, maybe check out their series of draft profiles of last year's college stars. I've got a couple in there so far (Derrick Favors and Ekpe Udoh so far, Gani Lawal, Elliot Williams and others coming up soon), but all of the articles so far are really excellent.