Posted on: September 25, 2008 1:19 pm
Edited on: September 25, 2008 1:21 pm

Dear Gary (on Duke)

Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: I appreciate you showing UNLV some respect in the preseason Top 25 (and one). We have one of the best coaches in the nation in Lon Kruger and a great roster coming in. But I just have one question: Why is Duke rated so high? I have a feeling Duke is to basketball as Notre Dame is to football ... overrated.

-- Marc

Duke basketball is Notre Dame football?


You should know that the Blue Devils have won at least 26 games in 10 of the past 11 seasons and never won less than 22 in that span. So while they have missed the Sweet 16 the past two years -- after making it in nine straight -- the idea that Duke is "overrated" is just silly. I mean, Duke finished 28-6 last season and played North Carolina on the final day of the regular season with the ACC title on the line. That's undeniably strong. And four starters from that squad have returned, meaning the core of a team that went 13-3 in the ACC last season is back (and joined by McDonald's All-American Elliot Williams).

Is this Duke team flawed?

Of course.

The Blue Devils could certainly use Shelden Williams in the middle, and not having a prominent big man could be their downfall. But either way, this is a 28-win team from a major conference with four returning starters. So that leads me to believe Duke is about where it belongs, and I'll be surprised if Coach K doesn't approach another 30-win season fresh off his gold medal-earning summer.

Posted on: July 24, 2008 3:52 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2008 5:00 pm

Dear Gary (on UNLV)

LAS VEGAS -- Here's Thursday's Dear Gary ...

Dear Gary: Not only did UNLV pick-up Tre'Von Willis (as a transfer) from Memphis, it recently added Derrick Jasper (as a transfer) from Kentucky and didn't get much press. Not to mention Beas Hamga was the most-prized center short of Kevin Love last year. I'd put them right after Miami at No. 18 in the preseason Top 25 (and one).

-- Michael

Lon Kruger really has UNLV going these days, and I'm not sure the average fan realizes he's won 57 games the past two seasons. The addition of Willis will help and Jasper could be really good in the Mountain West once he gains his eligibility, though I must slightly disagree on Hamga. Don't get me wrong, he's good. But to suggest he was the "most-prized center short of Kevin Love" in the Class of 2007 is revisionist history. DeAndre Jordan and Kosta Koufos were both rated higher than Hamga, and you could argue that among big men in general (meaning forwards and centers) he was also behind DeJuan Blair, J.J. Hickson and A.J. Ogilvy (not to mention Michael Beasley, Patrick Patterson and Blake Griffin).

But anyway, that's not the point.

The point is that you should be excited about UNLV (which is why I have the Rebels at No. 22) and the set-up Kruger has in place to keep it going. Not only is the lure of Vegas a natural recruiting tool, but he can also sell his NBA experience. Meanwhile, there's -- how to say this, exactly? -- an "agreeable" prep school here called Findlay Prep that should act as a feeder system going forward, and it never hurts that several huge summer basketball events are in Las Vegas every summer. In fact, it's hard not to notice that UNLV has more than the usual three coaches out and about this week because schools are not bound by the same NCAA restrictions for events within 30 miles of campus. Thus, UNLV has free reign this week and by extension more eyes and a presence in more places as these three major summer tournaments move forward and coaches position themselves to sign a class that can keep the wins coming.

The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com