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Posted on: December 8, 2010 2:12 pm
Edited on: December 8, 2010 2:19 pm

Finally, a good event to start the season on tap

I've been asking -- begging is probably more accurate -- for an interesting event to start the college basketball season for a while now. Something different than, you know, Pittsburgh vs. Rhode Island, which is what we got this year. Nothing against Pittsburgh (or Rhode Island, for that matter). It's just that casual sports fans won't turn their attention to the start of the college basketball season for Panthers-Rams.

But they'll turn their attention for this (via's Andy Katz):
Four of the sport's top programs -- Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky -- have committed to create the Champions Classic, an early season marquee event debuting in 2011 and televised by ESPN. The first Champions Classic is set for Madison Square Garden in New York, with Duke facing Michigan State and Kentucky meeting Kansas on Nov. 15, 2011. Year 2 at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta will see Michigan State vs. Kansas and Duke vs. Kentucky on Nov. 13, 2012. The third event, Nov. 12, 2013 at the United Center in Chicago, will have Michigan State playing Kentucky and Kansas playing Duke.
Yes, yes, yes!

And finally!

For too long this sport's season has started with a whimper, and most people never knew when or where it began, or with whom. Now everybody will know. ESPN has secured commitments from four of America's top programs, and the four schools will tip the next three seasons under one roof. Two will play each other, then the other two will play in a double-header format not unlike what I witnessed Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden. Each team will switch opponents each year for three years. So by the time this is over we will have experienced every possible combination of Duke, Michigan State, Kansas and Kentucky, and that the games will happen in the context of a high-profile event should only make them more special.

So kudos to ESPN for making this happen. And hats off to Mike Krzyzewski, Tom Izzo, Bill Self and John Calipari for letting it happen. I haven't been this excited since Delta started adding Wifi on domestic flights. The Champions Classic is going to be epic. It's an event that's decades overdue, obviously. But as I type these words, it's less than a year away.

Posted on: December 7, 2010 11:02 am
Edited on: December 7, 2010 2:25 pm

Just two more games till Selby joins KU

NEW YORK -- Kansas is a 12-point favorite over Memphis in the first game of Tuesday night's doubleheader at Madison Square Garden. So the Jayhawks should win. But they could lose. Either way, know this: The result will have little to do with KU's longterm possibilities.

That's the strange thing about this Jimmy V Classic.

The No. 4 Jayhawks are the highest-ranked participant in this four-school event despite the fact that their most talented player is yet to play this season, and he won't be on display here, either. Two games remain in the nine-game suspension the NCAA levied against Josh Selby for his acceptance of improper benefits. So the version of the Jayhawks the nation watches against Memphis will be uniquely gifted -- Tyshawn Taylor and the Morris Twins provide a nice inside-outside core -- but not nearly as talented as they'll be when Selby becomes eligible Dec. 18.

"He's going to be good for us," said Kansas guard Tyrel Reed.

But how good?

Will Selby soar quickly like Jared Sullinger or struggle early like Harrison Barnes?

My prediction: Reality will be somewhere in the middle.

The tough part for Selby will be joining a season already in progress and trying to enhance a team that's pretty good without him, and he'll be competing for minutes in a backcourt full of experienced guards. None of them can match Selby's physical tools, obviously. But Bill Self is comfortable with his veterans, and he won't just force Selby into a major role. If it happens, great. But if Selby struggles to grasp the concepts in place for this team, then it's possible -- I'm not suggesting it's likely, just possible -- that he could be more of a limited reserve for a few weeks.

"Josh is gonna help us, but he's got to be able to fit in and make us a better team," Self told me last week. "He's as talented a kid as we have. But the most talented kids don't always make the best teams. You've got to have guys who understand how we play. ... We play a style that I think will fit Josh well when he [becomes eligible]. But he's got to be able to do some things for us to warrant freedom and a lot of minutes."

In other words, Self is advising the nation to be patient.

And for good reason.

He's watched Barnes struggle at North Carolina for the disappointing-to-date Tar Heels, and the hype that surrounded the AP First Team All-American's arrival to campus has only intensified the criticism. That said, there's a couple of reasons to think Selby's path will be different. The first is because even if Selby struggles it's unlikely Kansas will because the Jayhawks don't need Selby to be great for them to be good like the Tar Heels need Barnes to be great for them to be good. Kansas will be good, regardless. So Selby starting slow won't cause the Jayhawks to fall out of the Top 25, point being that his rough patches won't be magnified the way Barnes' rough patches have been. The second reason? Whereas Barnes seems passive on most possessions (that's part of his problem, I think), Selby is relentless offensively -- a dribble-driving beast always on the attack, someone who's main purpose in life is to get to the rim. He'll crunch one on an overmatched defender within three games, guaranteed. So while I can't say for sure that Selby won't struggle to adjust, what I can tell you is that any problems he might encounter won't be rooted in passiveness.

"He's a gamer," Self said. "I think Josh will play better in the games just because he likes to compete … but it's going to take time. The expectations on him are going to be higher than they are on Harrison and the other guys because he hasn't played yet, and there's just been a buildup. I think he can handle it, without question. But to be real honest, every freshman I've coached has gone through stuff. … Mario [Chalmers]. Sherron [Collins]. Julian [Wright]. Shady [Darrell Arthur]. Makes no difference. There are some games they played less than 10 minutes [as a freshman].

"I'm not saying that'll happen with Josh," Self concluded. "I'm just saying it depends on how quickly he picks things up."
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 3, 2010 3:35 am

Cameron and Allen in consecutive nights is fun

LAWRENCE, Kan. -- You can tell by the timestamps on my last two posts that this road trip I'm currently enjoying has really disrupted my sleeping habits. And by disrupted my sleeping habits, I mean I'm not really sleeping anymore.

That's not fun.

But I'd still put my past two nights up against anybody's.

I was at Michigan State-Duke Wednesday night and UCLA-Kansas Thursday night.

So in a span of 24 hours I sat courtside in what I consider to be the two neatest college basketball arenas in the country (Cameron Indoor Stadium and Allen Fieldhouse) and watched four possible Hall of Fame coaches (Tom Izzo, Mike Krzyzewski, Ben Howland and Bill Self) compete in two high-level games. Duke's Kyrie Irving was the story late Wednesday, a questionable call was the story late Thursday. And now I'm just anxious to see what the story will be early Saturday, because I'm getting ready to fly back to North Carolina for this weekend's showdown between Kentucky and North Carolina.

I'll be inside the Dean Smith Center for tipoff.

I won't mind seeing another freshman dominate and be a star.

What I would mind seeing is another referee ruin a good competition.
Posted on: December 2, 2010 4:14 am
Edited on: December 2, 2010 9:40 am

Dude, where's my (rental) car?

DURHAM, N.C. -- You know what's worse than walking out of Cameron Indoor at 2:30 a.m.?

Walking out of Cameron Indoor at 2:30 a.m. and not being able to find your rental car for 30 minutes when it's really cold outside. Seriously, that's the most depressed I've been in at least a month. If not for an assist from a campus police officer, I'd probably still be stumbling around looking for my car, hating myself and pretty much everything else in this world. So allow me to offer a big thanks to the Duke campus police. You guys are as important to me as Kyrie Irving is to your basketball team.

You saw Irving, didn't you?

He was tremendous in Duke's 84-79 win over Michigan State.

Next up for him is Saturday's game against Butler.

Next up for me is Thursday's game between UCLA and Kansas at Allen Fieldhouse.

I'm flying there in a few hours.

Gonna try to not lose my car on this portion of the trip.

Fingers crossed.
Posted on: November 19, 2010 10:32 pm

Selby will miss nine games, then play for KU

The NCAA announced late Friday that Kansas freshman Josh Selby must sit out nine regular season games and repay $5,757.58 in impermissible benefits to the charity of his choice before being allowed to play for the Jayhawks.

Selby's recruitment was filled with red flags.

The 6-foot-2 combo guard committed to Tennessee in 2008, then famously decommitted in the summer of 2009. He was seen driving a Mercedes the week before he committed to Kansas, and Carmelo Anthony's business manager served as an advisor in the latter part of the recruiting process, all of which led to Selby's amateur status being scrutinized by the NCAA.

Now, after a lengthy investigation, there's a ruling.

It suggests Selby will make his debut Dec. 18 against Southern California. ranked Selby as the top overall prospect nationally in the Class of 2010.

Category: NCAAB
Posted on: November 15, 2010 3:41 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2010 12:27 pm

The Poll Attacks

Remember how two voters got Poll Attacked for putting Kansas State No. 1 in the preseason?

Well, they've changed their votes this week and put Duke No. 1.

That means their ballots now look more sensible.

But they're gonna get Poll Attacked again, still.

Let's go!

(Details of AP ballots courtesy of )

Associated Press poll: The only thing sillier than ranking Kansas State No. 1 in the preseason is dropping KSU after a 75-61 win over James Madison, but that's precisely what Dave Jones and Kevin Dunleavy did this week, presumably because they were worried about being featured in consecutive Poll Attacks. Well now look. Trying to avoid the Poll Attacks has landed them right back in the Poll Attacks, because neither understand how to properly rank and predict. So allow me to offer a lesson, and that lesson is this: Always stick with it until you can't anymore!

When I do something stupid -- like leave Northern Iowa unranked all last season, for example -- I stand strong until there's no way to stand anymore. It took a little dude hitting a wacky shot against top-ranked Kansas for me to admit my mistake about UNI, and rest assured I was never going to admit it otherwise. I might be stubborn, but I don't go out like a little B. So if I would've been off enough to rank Kansas State No. 1 in the preseason, there's no way I would've changed before Kansas State lost and made me change. That's where Dave and Kevin went wrong with this ballot. They gave up too soon. Now they look crazy twice.

Coaches poll: Villanova ahead of Kansas. Kansas ahead of Villanova. Honest to God, it doesn't matter to me because we're way too early in the season to be seriously debating whether a team that lost Scottie Reynolds is better than a team that lost Sherron Collins, Xavier Henry and Cole Aldrich. Me? I have Villanova ranked No. 8 and Kansas ranked No. 11, but if you wanted to put Kansas at No. 8 and Villanova at No. 11, I'm cool with it.

In other words, they appear to be the same class of team.

We could find out differently later.

But for now, they seem to be in the same class. And they both won their openers with ease. Which is why I can't understand why Kansas was ahead of Villanova in the first coaches poll but is now behind Villanova in the second coaches poll. KU was sixth and Villanova was seventh. Now Villanova is sixth and KU is seventh. Why the flipflop? Is it because Josh Selby isn't available (because the reality is that he was never going to be available in the first week anyway)? And does anybody really think Selby is merely the difference between the Jayhawks being sixth and seventh in the country? More likely, he's the difference between them being top five or top 15 (just like Enes Kanter is the difference between Kentucky being top five or top 15).

Those are all rhetorical questions, by the way.

Here's the truth: The reason for the flipflop is because many coaches have no idea what their first ballot looked like. They just sat down Sunday and scribbled names with little regard to what they scribbled on their first ballot, causing inexplicable changes to rankings that give me something to Poll Attack even when a ranked team has yet to lose.
Posted on: November 3, 2010 1:00 am
Edited on: November 3, 2010 1:04 am

KU and KSU roll in exhibitions

Kansas and Kansas State both won exhibitions Tuesday night.

KU beat Washburn 92-62.

KSU beat Newman 83-56.

Here's what you need to know: Kansas started Marcus Morris, Tyshawn Taylor, Tyrel Reed, Brady Morningstar and Mario Little. Morris led the Jayhawks with 28 points in 22 minutes. He looked very much like an All-American while making eight of 10 shots and all 11 free throw attempts. Meantime, KSU started Jacob Pullen, Rodney McGruder, Wally Judge, Curtis Kelly and Victor Ojeleye. Pullen made five of 13 shots and finished with 15 points, three assists and three turnovers. Highly regarded transfer Freddy Asprilla got nine points and 13 rebounds in 16 minutes for the Wildcats.

Kansas and Kansas State both open the regular season Nov. 12.

KU opens with Longwood.

KSU opens with James Madison.

They play each other for the first time at Allen Fieldhouse on Jan. 29.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: September 30, 2010 11:53 am
Edited on: September 30, 2010 12:04 pm

Rivers ends recruitment, commits to Duke

Austin Rivers -- a star at Winter Park High in Florida who is ranked No. 1 at, No. 2 at and No. 3 at in the Class of 2011 --has verbally committed to Duke, multiple recruiting analysts ('s Evan Daniels,'s Eric Bossi and's Paul Biancardi) reported Thursday morning.

"He picked Duke because of [Mike Krzyzewski] and his staff," Winter Park coach David Bailey told Biancardi. "There is a ton of tradition at Duke, and it was the best place for him from a basketball and academic standpoint."

Rivers is a 6-foot-4 guard and the son of Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

He chose Duke over North Carolina, Kansas and Florida, where he was once committed.

Rivers' commitment to Duke leaves Adonis Thomas as's highest-rated prospect yet to announce his college decision. The 6-6 wing from Melrose High in Memphis is ranked No. 3 in the Class of 2011 and is still considering Arkansas, Florida, Memphis, Tennessee and UCLA. Thomas is visiting UCLA this weekend along with No. 12 Quinn Cook, a 6-0 point guard from Oak Hill Academy in Virginia.
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