It seems like I've been watching college practices and games for months already. Now don't get me wrong: I enjoy doing that, but calling games is a lot more fun. This weekend I get to be courtside for Memphis at Georgetown, and I can't wait! I'm anticipating a competitive matchup between a pair of top 20 teams.
I've seen Memphis a few times on the tube, and while the Tigers have struggled a bit with perimeter shooting and taking care of the ball, this squad has enough experience and talent to become a Sweet 16-caliber team. Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier and Shawn Taggart have to lead effectively and produce consistently for Memphis to reach its potential.
I saw Georgetown pick apart a decent Maryland team in the Old Spice Classic in Orlando a couple of weeks ago and was impressed with the Hoyas. The backcourt is solid with Jessie Sapp, Chris Wright and the underrated Austin Freeman, and freshman Greg Monroe is a skilled and mature-playing big man. However, an assertive and consistent DaJuan Summers is a must for Georgetown to be its best.
Some random ramblingsLess is more ... maybe: While doing a little "dresser drawer" cleaning recently, I came across a 1981 Ohio State basketball card schedule with yours truly on the front. Short shorts and a small 'fro -- wow! Things have definitely changed.
But my point for bringing up the schedule card is what was on the back: the game schedule. We played three games in the Alaska Shootout from Nov. 27-29. From Dec. 2 to Jan. 4 we played nine more times before the 18-game round-robin Big Ten schedule for a total of 30. Orderly, simple, straightforward.
Part of me wishes there could be a return to that type of uniform scheduling for college basketball. Start sometime around Thanksgiving and end the regular season the first week in March. Starting in early or mid-November just seems too soon. And while I enjoy seeing some of the tournaments in November, and the competition and experience can be nice for players and fans, I think there are too many of them.
However, with unbalanced conference schedules, the proliferation of sports networks (and the made-for-television tournaments they spawn) and the complicated dynamics of scheduling, the yearning for a return to a more orderly start to the college hoops season is perhaps unrealistic. Or maybe not. If any of you have thoughts on this, please share your ideas.
"Other" All-Americans: When various experts have been asked to name the top players in college basketball this year, the list usually includes Darren Collison (UCLA), Stephen Curry (Davidson), Blake Griffin (Oklahoma), Tyler Hansbrough (UNC), Luke Harangody (Notre Dame), James Harden (ASU) and Hasheem Thabeet (UConn). While it's a bit early to start speculating about Player of the Year, I'd be surprised if it wasn't one of the aforementioned names. However, here are some other names that could vie for All-American honors: Chase Budinger (Arizona), Austin Daye (Gonzaga) James Johnson (Wake Forest), Ty Lawson (UNC), Jeff Teague (Wake Forest), Tyrese Rice (BC) and Sam Young (Pitt).
Impressive IPOs: Of the first-year players I've had a chance to see on the tube or in person, these young fellas have stood out. But like all first-time college players, they're working through the learning curve.
• Farouq Aminu (Wake Forest): An active and skilled frontcourt player. Has a high-octane motor for a freshman.
• Tyreke Evans (Memphis): Physically strong and can get to the basket, and is probably a better shooter than he has shown.
• Scotty Hopson (Tennessee): A bouncy athlete with plenty of confidence and "in the gym" range.
• Greg Monroe (Georgetown): Poised in the post and a good passer in there, too. Both are rare qualities for a youngster.
• Willie Warren (Oklahoma): Powerfully built guard who can get his and help others, too. Gives good effort on defense -- not a frequent occurrence among newcomers.
Pleasant surprises: In the Big Ten, Michigan and Ohio State own perhaps the conferences most impressive non-league wins. OSU won at Miami and on a neutral court against Notre Dame. I know Miami played the last 30 minutes of the game without its best player (Jack McClinton), but it still was a good road win for the young Buckeyes.
Michigan beat UCLA on a neutral court and then handled Duke at home in an electric Crisler Arena.
Dayton is undefeated going into Wednesday night's game at Creighton, which will be a major challenge. The Bluejays are always tough at home. Regardless of the outcome, both of these teams are NCAA tournament caliber. I've not seen Creighton this season, but I remember last year's team of primarily freshman and sophomores showing a lot of promise, and Dana Altman is an outstanding coach.
I saw Dayton practice in October and the Flyers are athletic, deep and play hard. Chris Wright is a league-MVP type of player and coach Brian Gregory is able to use 10-11 players, which enables his team to apply intense defensive pressure for 40 minutes.
While only 4-3, keep an eye on Long Beach State out of the Big West. Dan Monson's team was impressive in a road loss that I watched against Wisconsin. What impressed me was the team's athleticism, discipline and scoring ability. I'll be watching all season for validation of that performance in Madison a few weeks ago.