Posted on: December 1, 2010 12:01 pm
Edited on: December 1, 2010 12:44 pm

Getting ready for Michigan State-Duke

DURHAM, N.C. -- It's the school ranked first in all sensible preseason polls vs. the school ranked second in most preseason polls. It's Hall of Fame coach vs. Hall of Fame coach. Elite point guard vs. Elite point guard. Cameron Indoor. ACC/Big Ten Challenge. I could go on and on, but you get the point that Wednesday's showdown between Duke and Michigan State is a must-watch for college basketball fans and a must-attend for college basketball writers.

So I'm attending and I can't wait.

I'll be courtside for the nationally televised tipoff.

Here are four storylines for this game featuring two Final Four teams:

1. Power program/coach vs. Power program/coach

Kentucky is the all-time winningest program. UCLA has more titles than anybody. But an argument could be made that no two schools have been more consistently dominant in recent years than Duke and Michigan State, and that no two coaches are better at what they do than Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Izzo. Coach K leads active coaches in national titles (4) and Final Four appearances (11) while Izzo has one national championship and six Final Fours in the past 12 seasons. Both men have rejected multiple offers to move to the NBA, Izzo's decision to pass on a huge contract from the Cleveland Cavaliers last June serving as the latest example. Their approaches are different, personalities opposite. But one thing Krzyzewski and Izzo have in common is that they're true icons of the sport still operating at an elite level. To watch them against each other in person should be a treat.

2. Duke's quest to finish undefeated

It's still a longshot, and I doubt it'll happen. But if the Blue Devils win this game (Duke is a 10-point favorite, by the way) they'll have wins over No. 5 Kansas State, No. 6 Michigan State and be the owners of a remaining schedule that includes no more games against teams ranked in the latest Associated Press poll. Clearly, at N.C. State (Jan. 19) will still be tricky, and two of the final three regular season games are at Virginia Tech (Feb. 26) and North Carolina (March 5). But barring a notable injury, Duke won't be an underdog in any game this season. So get ready for a discussion about whether the Blue Devils can finish undefeated provided they handle Michigan State convincingly.

3. Kyrie Irving as America's best point guard

BYU's Jimmer Fredette and Kansas State's Jacob Pullen received much of the preseason hype, and Connecticut's Kemba Walker is the star of this young season. But ask NBA general managers for the name of the first guard likely to be selected in June's NBA Draft, and the answer you'll get most often is Duke's Kyrie Irving. Simply put, he's been better than advertised, and the advertisement was incredible. The freshman point guard is averaging 14.5 points, 5.8 assists and 3.7 rebounds while shooting 49.1 percent from the field, 40.9 percent from 3-point range and 92.3 percent from the free throw line. Irving is so good, in fact, that I'd give the edge at point guard in this game to Duke even though Michigan State's Kalin Lucas is more experienced and the preseason Big Ten Player of the Year.

4. This could decide the ACC/Big Ten Challenge

The Big Ten takes a 4-2 advantage into the final day of the ACC/Big Ten Challenge but remains the underdog in the event because ACC schools are favored in four of Wednesday's five games. Assuming everything goes as planned, the ACC/Big Ten Challenge will be tied 5-5 when the Spartans and Blue Devils tip at 9:30 ET. So this game could decide things, and such a scenario would have fans from Ohio State, Indiana and Purdue gathered around televisions rooting for Michigan State while fans from Virginia, Florida State and North Carolina -- OK, probably not North Carolina -- pull for Duke. Thus, the timing of the game could make the stakes higher than they already were, and they were already pretty high given the stature of the schools, players and coaches involved.
Category: NCAAB
Posted on: December 1, 2010 6:48 am

The Big Ten leads 4-2 heading into tonight

I correctly picked Wake Forest over Iowa, Northwestern over Georgia Tech, Ohio State over Florida State, and Illinois over North Carolina. But I missed on Michigan over Clemson. So my Tuesday night projections were slightly off. And now the Big Ten has a 4-2 advantage over the ACC in the annual ACC/Big Ten Challenge. But I still have the ACC winning the event based on the way I suspect Wednesday night's games will go.

Take a look:
  • Indiana at Boston College: Boston College
  • North Carolina State at Wisconsin: Wisconsin
  • Purdue at Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech
  • Maryland at Penn State: Maryland
  • Michigan State at Duke: Duke
That means I've now got the ACC winning 6-5, but this could clearly go either way. Yes, it's true, every team I picked to win tonight is technically the favorite. But Maryland is only a 2-point favorite at Penn State, and Virginia Tech and Boston College are only 4-point favorites over Purdue and Indiana. So it should be a fun night of hoops. I'll be at Michigan State-Duke, by the way. Can't wait for that.
Posted on: November 24, 2010 2:10 am
Edited on: November 24, 2010 2:22 am

Five thoughts on a great night of hoops

Tuesday marked the first real day of great college basketball games, and it was terrific. Here are five thoughts from a night that saw No. 1 Duke remain undefeated, No. 4 Kansas State take its first loss, Kemba Walker lead UConn past No. 2 Michigan State, and No. 8 Kentucky get by No. 13 Washington thanks to another stellar effort from yet another terrific John Calipari-coached freshman:

1. Duke is seriously talented, elite, all that and more

The Blue Devils were the nation's consensus preseason No. 1 team, and the nation saw why during their 82-68 win over Kansas State. You could reasonably argue -- I'm not saying I necessarily believe this, just saying it could be reasonably argued -- that Duke has college basketball's best player at three different positions, and that freshman Kyrie Irving is already the team's top player despite the fact that he joined a roster featuring seven guys with national title rings. This team was easy to love on paper, and it's even easier to love after watching it on the court. They won't lose when they play well. To top them, somebody will have to be really good on the same day they're a little off.

2. Jacob Pullen will probably be OK, I think

Jacob Pullen struggled against Duke, missed 11 of the 12 shots he attempted. So if you want to question him, you can. And I won't blame you. But I would like to remind you that he's had awful nights before and recovered nicely. The All-American candidate posted back-to-back 2-of-15 games last January and still went on to put 34 on BYU and 28 on Xavier during the NCAA tournament. Granted, it's unclear if Pullen can be that same type of player without Denis Clemente in the backcourt beside him, and, I know, Pullen hasn't looked great this season regardless of the opponent. But he's still undeniably the best player on a team that already owns wins over Virginia Tech and Gonzaga, and that's worth remembering in the spirit of perspective.

3. Kemba Walker is turning into a star

New York-area basketball enthusiasts have wanted Kemba Walker to be a star since the moment he enrolled at UConn, but it didn't happen that quickly for a variety of reasons. It's happening now, though. Walker recorded at least 30 points for the third straight game and led the unranked (for the moment) Huskies to a 70-67 victory over Michigan State. He's driving and scoring and, perhaps most impressively, leading. And though I can't imagine Walker keeps it up and really averages around 30 points per game, if he's anywhere close to this good consistently then my prediction that UConn will miss the NCAA tournament for the second straight year will be wrong in a major way.

4. Michigan State, as usual, will be a work in progress

As sure as Tom Izzo is spelled with two Zs, Michigan State will be there in the end. To think otherwise would be stupid. But it must be concerning for Spartan fans that Kalin Lucas was awful in the loss to UConn. While Walker had the type of game that enhances (and in many cases inflates) reputations, Lucas had one that damages them. He recorded four field goals and five turnovers in the loss, and an elite point guard shouldn't have games like that in his senior year even when he's coming off of an injury.

5. Terrence Jones is way better than I anticipated

I knew Terrence Jones would be good because he's big and skilled and naturally gifted, but what he's done through four games is ridiculous. The 6-foot-8 freshman is averaging 20.1 points and 11.8 rebounds after geting 16 points and 17 rebounds in UK's 74-67 win over Washington, and he's the main reason why the Wildcats are still overwhelming opponents despite losing five first-round picks from last season's team. Jones' waffling between Washington and Kentucky for two weeks last May -- specifically the way he toyed with fans via Twitter -- before ultimately signing with the Wildcats was a major turnoff in my eyes, but I don't care about that anymore. Kid is performing like a monster. Just tremendous. He'll never play college basketball next to permanently ineligible Turkish star Enes Kanter (barring a successful appeal to the NCAA). But, my lord, can you imagine how scary Kentucky would be with those two?
Posted on: November 23, 2010 12:08 pm

Good night of college hoops on tap

Tonight should be a great night to settle in and watch hoops on television.

I'll be flying to Orlando for the Old Spice Classic.

So hopefully my flight has reliable WiFi.

Either way, here's what's on tap:
  • No. 2 Michigan State vs. Connecticut in Maui at 7 ET
  • No. 3 Ohio State vs. Morehead State at 7 ET
  • No. 8 Kentucky vs. No. 13 Washington in Maui at 9:30 ET
  • No. 1 Duke vs. No. 4 Kansas State in Kansas City at 10 ET
That's two Hall of Fame coaches (Tom Izzo and Jim Calhoun) meeting in the first game, two elite big men (Jared Sullinger and Kenneth Faried) battling in the second game, two former teammates (Terrence Jones and Terrence Ross) competing in the third game, and two top five teams (the Blue Devils and Wildcats) squaring off in the fourth game. It's not bad for a Tuesday in November. Or any day in any month, really.
Posted on: November 16, 2010 3:03 pm
Edited on: November 16, 2010 3:03 pm

Duke trio headlines Naismith watch list

The Atlanta Tipoff Club announced the Naismith preseason watch list on Tuesday.

Three of the selected players are from Duke.

The list was compiled by the Atlanta Tipoff Club's Board of Selectors, of which I am a member. Click this link to view the ballot I submitted last month. The actual list of 50 players is below. It will be trimmed to 30 in late February, cut to four in March. The Naismith Award will then be presented to the nation's best men's basketball player at the Final Four. Ohio State's Evan Turner won it last season.
  1. Lavoy Allen (Temple)
  2. Kevin Anderson (Richmond)
  3. Harrison Barnes (North Carolina)
  4. Will Barton (Memphis)
  5. Talor Battle (Penn State)
  6. Keith Benson (Oakland)
  7. William Buford (Ohio State)
  8. Alec Burks (Colorado)
  9. Randy Culpepper (UTEP)
  10. Malcolm Delaney (Virginia Tech)
  11. Kim English (Missouri)
  12. Kenneth Faried (Morehead State)
  13. Corey Fisher (Villanova)
  14. Jimmer Fredette (BYU)
  15. Austin Freeman (Georgetown)
  16. Ashton Gibbs (Pittsburgh)
  17. Elias Harris (Gonzaga)
  18. Jeremy Hazell (Seton Hall)
  19. Kyrie Irving (Duke)
  20. Charles Jenkins (Hofstra)
  21. JaJuan Johnson (Purdue)
  22. Kevin Jones (West Virginia)
  23. Perry Jones (Baylor)
  24. Kris Joseph (Syracuse)
  25. Brandon Knight (Kentucky)
  26. Kawhi Leonard (San Diego State)
  27. Jon Leuer (Wisconsin)
  28. Kalin Lucas (Michigan State)
  29. Shelvin Mack (Butler)
  30. Demetri McCarney (Illinois)
  31. E’Twaun Moore (Purdue)
  32. Marcus Morris (Kansas)
  33. Chandler Parsons (Florida)
  34. Jacob Pullen (Kansas State)
  35. Kyle Singler (Duke)
  36. Chris Singleton (Florida State)
  37. John Shurna (Northwestern)
  38. Nolan Smith (Duke)
  39. Jared Sullinger (Ohio State)
  40. Durrell Summers (Michigan State)
  41. Jeff Taylor (Vanderbilt)
  42. Isaiah Thomas (Washington)
  43. Trey Thompkins (Georgia)
  44. Klay Thompson (Washington State)
  45. Kemba Walker (Connecticut)
  46. Chris Warren (Ole Miss)
  47. Derrick Williams (Arizona)
  48. Jordan Williams (Maryland)
  49. Chris Wright (Dayton
  50. Tyler Zeller (North Carolina)
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 PollSpeak.com. )

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: October 30, 2010 6:57 pm

Elite point guard decommits from Texas

Myck Kabongo, MaxPreps.com's No. 2 point guard in the Class of 2011, publicly decommitted from Texas on Saturday and told recruiting analyst Dave Telep that he's now considering Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina and Syracuse in addition to the Longhorns.

"I'm not opening it up to everybody, but I'm going to open it to certain schools," Kabongo said. "I'll look at Syracuse, Duke, North Carolina, Texas and Kentucky. That's it."

Kabongo committed to Texas in January 2009.

He's now the nation's highest-rated available recruit.
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 Rivals.com, No. 2 at MaxPreps.com and No. 3 at Scout.com in the Class of 2011 --has verbally committed to Duke, multiple recruiting analysts (Scout.com's Evan Daniels, Rivals.com's Eric Bossi and ESPN.com'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 MaxPreps.com'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.
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com