2007-08 Preseason BlogPoll

Posted by rtmsf on October 6th, 2007

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The 2007-08 preseason blogpoll is out!

07-08 Preseason BlogPoll

Contributors: March to Madness (administrator), NCAA Hoops Today, SEC Hoops: TGTBTD, March Madness All Season, A Sea of Blue, College Hoops Heaven, Rush the Court. All ballots archived here.

We’ll delve further into the reasons why we voted the way we did as the season preview moves along this month, but suffice it to say that we don’t have many major beefs with the way the preseason blogpoll turned out. We generally think Michigan St., Marquette, Texas and Duke are a little overvalued, while Indiana, Gonzaga and VCU are undervalued, but we were pretty much in lockstep with the group as to who the collective best five teams are.

FYI – our two ranked teams that were left on the outside looking in were Syracuse (#21) and Southern Illinois (#22).

This should be a lot of fun – we can’t wait to get the season started.

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Conference Primers: #29 – Northeast

Posted by rtmsf on October 3rd, 2007

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Predicted Order of Finish.

  1. Sacred Heart (19-9) (14-4)
  2. Robert Morris (17-13) (12-6)
  3. Wagner (18-12) (11-7)
  4. Mt. St. Mary’s (15-15) (10-8)
  5. Quinnipiac (14-15) (10-8)
  6. St. Francis (Pa) (14-15) (9-9)
  7. Central Connecticut St. (13-16) (8-10)
  8. Monmouth (10-18) (8-10)
  9. Fairleigh Dickinson (10-18) (7-11)
  10. St. Francis (NY) (8-21) (6-12)
  11. Long Island (5-23) (4-14)

NEC Logo

WYN2K. The NEC is currently going through a down cycle, but it hasn’t always been that way. In the 23-year history of the 65-team NCAA Tourney, the NEC has earned a non-#16 seed twelve times, getting a seed as high as #13 twice, in 1996 (Monmouth) and 1997 (LIU). Lately, though, the Northeast Conference has been stuck in #16 seed hell, having earned a bottom seed three years in a row (the 2006 appearance was in the PiG – Monmouth defeated Hampton). Over those last three years, the NEC’s OOC record is 94-215 (.304), featuring wins over Seton Hall (FDU – 2007), S. Illinois (Monmouth – 2006), Rhode Island (Wagner – 2006) and St. John’s (St. Francis (NY) – 2005). As you can see, it’s a better conference in general than the SWAC and MEAC, but it too typically cannot compete with first- and second-tier leagues.

Predicted Champion. Sacred Heart (#16 Seed NCAA). With twin NEC behemoths CCSU and Monmouth (6 of last 8 NCAA bids) likely to have down years, Sacred Heart is poised to take over the crown of the NEC. Five of the top seven players return from a team that finished winning seven of their last eight games before falling in a close one against CCSU in the NEC championship game.

Others Considered. Robert Morris returns a trio of high-scoring players for a team that was considered disappointing last year. Notable from a statistical oddity bent is that 6’0 guard Tony Lee shot a sizzling 67% on two-point FGs last year (150-224), which is an extremely high percentage for a small guard. Mt. St. Mary’s returns its leading scorer and assist man from a squad that earned a reputation of playing very hard on every possession. Wagner has everyone back from an 8-10 team that showed some promise midway through the conference season last year.

Games to Watch. Like a broken record, there will only be one NEC game on your television this winter.

  • NEC Championship Game (03.12.08). ESPN2.

RPI Booster Games. With only 18 games against BCS opponents, the NEC will have to make it count if they want to earn RPI points this year (the league was 1-20 vs. BCS teams in 2007). But there are a few opportunities for the league to take advantage of down years among several Big East teams (and one former Big East squad) if they catch them sleeping.

  • Robert Morris @ Seton Hall (11.18.07)
  • Sacred Heart @ St. John’s (11.20.07)
  • FDU @ St. John’s (11.25.07)
  • Sacred Heart @ Providence (12.18.07)
  • Robert Morris @ Boston College (01.07.08)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Again, zero.

Neat-o Stat. This isn’t a stat, but it’s neat-o nonetheless. Earl “The Goat” Manigault’s cousin, Ronald Manigault, is a junior college transfer at LIU this season. If he’s anything like his cousin (see video tribute below), LIU may become the And1 crowd’s underground team of choice this season.


64/65-Team Era. In 23 appearances, the NEC is actually the least successful conference of the era, going a measly 1-23 (.042) over this period. When you consider that the one win was Monmouth in 2006’s play-in game, it looks even worse. Despite getting two #13 and #14 seeds, the NEC has never been able to pull off the big upset.

Final Thought. The NEC champion has played well as a #16 seed vs. the #1 seed in two of its last three NCAA appearances, but simply wore down in the second half against a far superior team (2005 – CCSU down one at halftime to Illinois; 2006 – Monmouth down seven with six mins remaining vs. Villanova). In order to have a legitimate chance to win a game, the NEC champ will likely have to win enough nonconference games to improve its RPI enough to earn a #15 or #14 seed. Unfortunately, we don’t see a team capable of that in this year’s NEC.

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Conference Primers: #30 – MEAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2007

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Predicted Order of Finish.

  1. North Carolina A&T (20-10) (15-3)
  2. Morgan St. (15-12) (13-5)
  3. Coppin St. (14-15) (12-6)
  4. Hampton (13-15) (10-8)
  5. Delaware St. (12-16) (10-8)
  6. Norfolk St. (14-15) (10-8)
  7. Bethune-Cookman (15-15) (8-10)
  8. Florida A&M (13-16) (8-10)
  9. South Carolina St. (9-18) (7-11)
  10. Howard (7-21) (6-12)
  11. Maryland – Eastern Shore (6-24) (6-12)
  12. Winston-Salem St. (5-23) (3-15)

MEAC Logo

WYN2K. As bad as the SWAC is as a conference, the MEAC is only marginally better. But make no mistake – it IS better. Computer rankings for the last three years reflect that the MEAC lords over the SWAC, as it has won over twice as many OOC contests (70-268; .261) than its sister conference over the last three years. Yet, the MEAC champion is still a play-in game stalwart, finding itself in three of the last four PiGs and entering the NCAAs as a #16 seed each of the last five years. Exhibiting the same problem with OOC “guarantee games” as the SWAC, only Florida A&M and Delaware St. had overall winning records last year. Now, if the league could only keep its coaches out of trouble… Morgan St.’s Todd Bozeman (yes, that Todd Bozeman), SC State’s Jamal Brown and FAMU’s Mike Gillespie have all experienced legal trouble in the last year (Brown and Gillespie were fired).

Predicted Champion. North Carolina A&T (#16 Seed NCAA). Aggie Pride is back, as former Louisville champion (1980) and current A&T head coach Jerry Eaves continues to rebuild a program that was an NCAA regular in the 80s/early 90s (ten trips from 1982-95). Lightning-quick PG Steven Rush leads the charge for the 27th quickest tempo in the nation, and it doesn’t hurt that he has F Jason Willis and a cast of five other senior regulars from a team that made a late push in the MEAC last season.

Others Considered. Todd Bozeman’s Morgan St. squad intrigues us because his team improved leaps and bounds over 2006 based largely on the attitude shift he instilled into the program. Plus, he’s bringing the best recruiting class into the league this year. Hampton is also a team to watch because of Rashad West, a 6’1 playmaker who is likely the best player in the league. Coppin St. returns all five starters from an underachieving squad last year.

Games to Watch. Similar to the SWAC, there’s only one game that will matter in the MEAC.

  • MEAC Championship Game (03.15.08).

RPI Booster Games. The MEAC plays 43 games against BCS conference opponents this year, and all but one is on the road. The key point here is that the home game is definitely winnable, as are a couple of other road games.

  • Colorado @ Florida A&M (11.15.07)
  • Hampton @ Virginia (12.19.07)
  • NC A&T @ Miami (FL) (12.23.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Zero. See SWAC.

Neat-o Stat. Don’t come to this league if you’re seeking beautiful offense. Nine of its eleven teams last year rated in the bottom 20% of teams nationally for offensive efficiency, and three of its teams (UMES, Howard, Norfolk St.) earned the ignoble distinction of being the least efficient defensive teams in the nation.

65-Team Era. Counting PiGs, the MEAC is 3-22 overall, with two trips to the second round – Hampton (#15) over Iowa St. (#2) in 2002, and Coppin St. (#15) over South Carolina (#2) in 1997. The MEAC is responsible for two of the only four #15 over #2 seed wins in history.

Final Thought. At least the MEAC isn’t the SWAC, right?

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Conference Primers: #31 – SWAC

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2007

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Predicted Order of Finish.

  1. Alabama A&M (18-9) (13-5)
  2. Mississippi Valley St. (13-13) (12-6)
  3. Grambling St. (14-9) (12-6)
  4. Alabama St. (15-14) (10-8)
  5. Southern (13-15) (9-9)
  6. Jackson St. (12-17) (8-10)
  7. Arkansas-Pine Bluff (8-19) (8-10)
  8. Prairie View A&M (9-20) (8-10)
  9. Alcorn St. (5-20) (7-11)
  10. Texas Southern (5-23) (3-15)

SWAC Logo

What You Need to Know (WYN2K). Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to the worst basketball conference in America! For three years running, the Southwestern Athletic Conference has found itself at the absolute bottom of every major computer ranking system (RPI, Sagarin & Pomeroy) as its ten schools have gone a collective 32-229 (.123) in OOC games during the last three seasons (easily the worst). Its sacrificial lamb league champion has received eight straight #16 seeds in the NCAAs and four of those teams were relegated to the dreaded play-in game. Just how bad is it? Consider that tournament champion Jackson St. and regular-season champion Mississippi Valley St. were the only two schools with overall winning records last year – no other conference member won more than eleven games. There are no encouraging signs of change for this season.

Predicted Champion. Alabama A&M (#16 Seed NCAA). Yes, we’re predicting a worst-to-first here, but the Bulldogs are the only SWAC school returning all five starters from last season, including dynamic sophomore guards Trant Sampson and Cornelius Hester as well as 6’11 defensive freak Mickell Gladness (6.3 bpg), who blocked an astonishing 20.5% of shots while he was on the court last season.

Others Considered. Grambling is an interesting team because they return four starters including the SWAC’s best all-around player Andre Ratliff, but they also open a brand-new 7500-seat arena and we shouldn’t discount the “new barn” effect. Mississippi Valley St. is another team to watch because they won the regular-season crown last season and return former Southern Miss coach James Green, who has inspired his teams to play maddening D, which will keep them in the hunt.

Games to Watch. There’s only one game you’ll find on tv from the SWAC, and it’s the only game that matters for this conference all season.

  • SWAC Championship Game (03.15.08).

RPI Booster Games. The SWAC plays 28 games against BCS conference opponents, and 26 of those are on the road. In a weird scheduling coincidence, only Auburn deigns to venture into a SWAC gym, and it does so twice – it could lose either of these if Lebo’s team isn’t careful.

  • Auburn @ Alabama St. (11.17.07)
  • Auburn @ Southern (12.16.07)

Odds of Multiple NCAA Bids. Nil. It’s never happened before, and the reality of the non-conference “guarantee games” in the SWAC will ensure it doesn’t happen again this year.

All-Name Team. Alabama St.’s Grlenntys “Chief” Kickingstallionsims is a cinch for national honors, but Texas Southern’s St. Paul Latham is another worthy candidate.

Neat-o Stat. The SWAC likes to run, as half of its teams were among the top 62 fastest tempos in the nation in 06-07. By the same token, though, none can shoot the ball, as 9 of its 10 teams were among the bottom 35 teams last year in effective FG%.

65-Team Era. The SWAC is 1-21 in the era. Southern University (#13) defeated Georgia Tech (#4) 93-78 in the first round of the 1993 NCAA Tourney.

Final Thought. The SWAC isn’t worth much in basketball, so we’ll give it some love for something it’s actually good at.

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2007-08 Season Preview

Posted by rtmsf on October 2nd, 2007

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Now that we’re firmly into October, roughly ten days from Midnight Madness and only about five weeks from the opening tipoff of a regular season game, we’re going to try our hand at providing some preseason content here. Here’s what we envision (but please don’t hold us to it):

1. Conference Primers – a daily rundown of some useful and not-so-useful information on all 31 conferences from worst to first.

2. NCAA Bracket – a semi-weekly update as we go through the conferences as to where we predict each team will be slotted in the 2008 Dance.

3. Preseason Magazine Reviews – as they come out fast and furious over the next month, we’ll grade them as we already have with Athlon and Lindy’s.

4. Blogpoll - we’re teaming up with our new friends over at March to Madness (administrator extraordinaire), NCAA Hoops Today, SEC Hoops: TGTBTU, March Madness All Season, A Sea of Blue and College Hoops Heaven (likely more to come) to provide the first annual college hoops preseason blogpoll.

5. All-Everything Teams. We’ll do a traditional all-american team right before the season begins, but we’re going to try to mix that up with some other nontraditional all-whatever teams here.

6. Anything Else – we’ll continue with our usual fare of linkage and thought-provoking (gulp…) commentary where appropriate. If anyone has an idea of something else they’d like to see, hit us up at rushthecourt@yahoo.com.

 

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Breaking Down the Preseason Mags… pt. 2

Posted by rtmsf on September 14th, 2007

So Wednesday we established that the Athlon Sports preseason magazine is one that you probably shouldn’t take home with you. Unless you’re the type of person who goes gaga over seeing your favorite team/player on the cover and must own them all in a Sisyphian quest to document every newsworthy event involving it throughout history. Consider this excitable Carolina fan’s tale we stumbled across today (re: the Athlon issue)…

Yep, arrived in Atlanta area stores last week, and every darn store I checked had the Georgia edition (one UGA player and one Ga Tech player on the cover). Same as last year. And the year before. Ad nauseum.

So I will do what I do every year – wait until all the mags are out, then drive up to visit my brother in NC and buy every mag with a Heel on the cover. That is always one of my most happy trips of the year.

Hey, we don’t judge. So here’s the second installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.

Next Up: Lindy’s.

Lindy’s

 

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

  • 21 regional covers is a nice number, but the Rocky Mtn states aren’t represented in the least – Does Lindy’s realize that the Mountain West and WAC have fans too?
  • Coolest Cover – none – they’re pretty much all the same format, with multiple players photographically stacked on top of each other.
  • Say What? The Tennessee issue highlights UT, Memphis, Vandy and the Lady Vols?? The NE issue features UConn, BC and something called the “Lady Huskers,” which we assume is supposed to be “Huskies.” Either way, we have no tolerance for this.
  • Total Points = 2

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

  • Somewhat difficult upon first glance. Eleven major conferences are arranged alphabetically, then by predicted order of finish of its teams. The rest of the conferences are shoved into the back of the mag with the teams arranged alphabetically within. Confusing.
  • Standard format otherwise – roundup, features & predictions; analysis of teams; recruiting, in that order.
  • Total Points = 2.5

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

  • Scoping the Nation dives into the one-and-done phenomenon, and pretty much makes the same assessment we made here back in May – that coaches at the elite programs recognize the necessity in assuming the risk of taking potential one-and-dones. The potential reward, as in the cases of Greg Oden and Mike Conley for Thad Matta at Ohio St., is simply too much to pass up. They also take a look at the ten most likely one-and-dones for this season and next.
  • The Nov/Dec Action to Check Out section is a bit of a copout by Lindy’s in the sense that its early publication resulted in not being able to review full schedules. Still, they make an attempt by reviewing the big pre-conference game possibilities in the holiday tournaments.
  • Lots of Lists – that’s ok, we like lists.
    • Top 10 “under the radar” players
    • Top 10 transfer players
    • Top 10 juco transfers
    • Top 10 jump shooters
    • Top 5 defenders
  • Lindy’s also provides a complete Top 25 (+15 fringe teams), a listing of the NCAA field of 65 by conference, as well as predictions of the Sweet 16 and Final Four.
  • There is also a complete list of coaching changes and the conferences are rated first (Pac-10) to worst (SWAC).
  • We also appreciated seeing deserving blurbs on Rick Majerus‘s return to college coaching at St. Louis, and Skip Prosser‘s passing at Wake.
  • They also rate the Top 25 players at each position…
    • PG – Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.)
    • SG – Chris Lofton (Tennessee)
    • SF – Brandon Rush (Kansas)
    • PF – Tyler Hansbrough (UNC)
    • C – Roy Hibbert (Georgetown)
  • …and the top frontcourt (UCLA) and backcourt (UNC).
  • Cool Stat Award. Utah St. guard Jaycee Carroll’s shooting numbers – .527 from the field, .432 on threes, and .888 from the foul line!
  • Total Points = 9

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

  • Kentucky-centric. Three of their feature articles relate to the UK head coaching position – Tubby’s leaving of the job (He’s Gone), Billy D’s courting of the job along with his about-face with Orlando (He Couldn’t Leave), and Gillispie’s acceptance of the job (Billy & the Believers).
  • What’s Good for the Zags… is a good article about the pressures that other mid-major programs (even the successful ones) now face in light of the Gonzaga Effect.
  • Embracing Kelvin is an insightful piece about the “my way or the highway” coaching style of Kelvin Sampson, and validates why we expect big things from IU this season.
  • Early and Often is a somewhat weaker article describing how coaches are faced with recruiting players earlier and earlier in high school (and sometimes back into junior high).
  • Total Points = 11

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

  • Lindy’s uses both the 65-team prediction model and the Top 25, as discussed above. Like Athlon, they too have UCLA defeating UNC in the final game, but we give them a little bit of credit for projecting first-timer Tennessee into the F4. They don’t predict an Elite Eight, but only half of their Sweet 16 made it there in 2007, which is realistic.
  • Big Conference Bias. Still, 14 of that Sweet 16 are from BCS conferences – Gonzaga and Memphis are the only exceptions. NCAA Bids – ACC (5), Big Ten (4), Big 12 (5), Big East (8), Pac-10 (7), SEC (7).
  • Mid-Major Watch. Mid-Major bids – 3 A10 (Xavier, St. Joe’s, St. Louis), 2 CAA (George Mason, VCU), 2 CUSA (Memphis, UAB), 1 Mountain West (BYU), 1 WAC (New Mexico St.), 1 MVC (S. Illinois).
  • Surprising Omissions. Florida loses everyone, but are there really seven better teams in the SEC this year? Billy D. has the #1 recruiting class coming into Gainesville. We also think Lorenzo Romar’s Washington squad is primed for a return to the NCAAs this year. Also, we gotta believe that the always-underrated MVC will manage to get another team in there, while seven (Georgia and Vandy??) from the SEC is a little ridiculous this year.
  • Boldest Prediction. Again, Lindy’s doesn’t go too far out on a limb with any of their picks, but Alabama winning the SEC West completely depends on Ronald Steele’s knees, and Cornell winning the Ivy League is also dubious.
  • Total Points = 14

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

  • The major and mid-major conferences get a predicted order of finish with brief analysis, a substantial recruiting roundup, three teams of all-conference selections, returning leaders in key categories, team stats and a fair superlatives section. While we appreciate a focus on acquainting readers with the newcomers, we would have liked to have seen less space used on this in favor of the returners.
  • The small conferences get a predicted order of finish, two teams of all-conference selections and a superlatives section.
  • Total Points = 3.5

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

  • Lindy’s Top 40 teams get a full page of analysis, including player evaluations and team statistical rankings.
  • All other BCS and mid-major teams get a brief half-page of analysis with the same evaluations/rankings. Low major teams (even if predicted to make the NCAA Tourney) get a paragraph and a few key stats. Minimal info.
  • Again, similar to Athlon, analysis is lacking. Much of it is based on recapping last season’s accomplishments plus the obligatory coach’s quotes. For teams outside the Top 40, they barely get a mention.
  • Total Points = 12

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

  • As mentioned above, each major conference page has a substantial section on newcomers and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
  • Six pages of recruiting information, featuring the top 25 recruiting classes with a brief description of each.
  • The top 50 of 2007 is provided by Rivals.com, but Lindy’s focuses on the future classes more than present, listing the top 100 for both 2008 and 2009, plus the top 10 for 2010.
  • They also provide some much-needed context and analysis from Justin Young at Rivals.
  • Total Points = 5

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

  • We already established that they’re putting some women’s players on the cover.
  • They also give it four pages in the front features section, with a detailed top 25 and fifteen All-Americans. Unacceptable.
  • Total Points = 1

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

  • Errors. We’re not sure if the cause is shoddy editing or what, but who and what are Reyshawn Green Terry (formerly of UNC) (p.9), David Lightly Lighty (Ohio St.) (p.18) and Gongzaga Gonzaga (p.28)? – these errors were found in the first few pages and seemed pervasive throughout, mitigating the mag’s credibility from the start.
  • Whereas Lindy’s provides far more interesting detail in almost every other area over Athlon, its writing (and clearly its editing) is weaker on the whole.
  • Again, no schedules due to the early publication date.
  • It takes some risks with its predictions (which we like), but its analysis really doesn’t explain why, e.g., Georgia is an NCAA Tournament team and Florida isn’t.
  • Total Points = 9

RTC Grade for Lindy’s = 69 pts

Basis: Lindy’s is a better magazine on the whole than Athlon, but it has serious weaknesses with respect to its team analyses. Where it excels is in the areas of roundup and recruiting information, but it needs better writing, editing and much more consideration of the smaller conferences. A little more attention to detail would make this magazine a legit value in future iterations.

Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
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Breaking Down the Preseason Mags…

Posted by rtmsf on September 12th, 2007

We’re heading into the middle of September already, literally thirty days until Midnight Madness, and the first batch of preseason mags are already proliferating on B&N shelves like West Virginians on crystal meth at a swap meet (no offense intended to the West Virginians not on crystal meth, of course). We know many of our readers are asking, “what’s a magazine?” To which we reply, “it’s what old people read while they’re on the toilet.” For our few readers here over 30 (present company excluded), we offer the first installment of our continuing series of reviews of the preseason magazines.

First in line: Athlon Sports.

Athlon Preseason Cover 07

I. Covers (5 pts) - are they cool? inclusive?

  • 34 regional covers seems like overkill, but we suppose having a Minnesota/Iowa/Iowa St. cover matters to someone.
  • Coolest Cover – for some reason, we particularly like the elated yet menacing look Patrick Beverly gives the camera on the Arkansas edition.
  • Say What? Athlon’s UCLA/USC cover (above) features Kevin Love and OJ Mayo in their Burger Boy unis – was it really too much trouble to shoot them with their correct jerseys on?
  • Total Points = 4

II. Ease of Use (5 pts) – how hard is it to find confs/teams?

  • Conferences and teams are arranged alphabetically, allowing for quick navigation assuming you know your conference.
  • Standard format otherwise – features & predictions; analysis of teams; recruiting, in that order.
  • Total Points = 4

III. Roundup (10 pts) – every mag has one – tell us something new!

  • 10 Things to Watch is ok, but we didn’t learn anything new (i.e., the Pac-10 is great, keep an eye on Love/Mayo/Gordon, etc.).
  • Hoops Madness is a little better, mostly because of its lists of emerging stars (hot sophs to watch), top transfers and coaches on the hot seat. Also enjoyed learning that Dayton’s band has become the band by proxy for the Niagara Purple Aces (since NU doesn’t have one).
  • Cool Stat Award. Memo to Adam Lonon (VMI) – shoot more! (31 starts, 26 FGs)
  • Total Points = 5

IV. Features (15 pts) – give us some insightful and unique storylines.

  • Next Generation is a decent article about the young brigade of coaches who have been successful so far (Donovan, Matta, JT3, Howland, etc.). It wasn’t unique, as we expect to see a lot of this in the rags this year.
  • The Fix relates the story of the Tulane pointshaving scandal two decades ago. Although the article briefly mentions the Tim Donaghy story, it focuses primarily (and misguidedly) on the people involved in the scandal. What we needed to see here was an article about the existence of gambling among college athletes and efforts to prevent it. Big swing & miss here.
  • The Scoop is three one-page interviews with Ronald Steele (Alabama), Bill Walker (Kansas St.) and Drew Neitzel (Michigan St.), none of which are very interesting.
  • Total Points = 5

V. Predictions (20 pts) – how safe are their picks? do they take any chances? are they biased toward the big boys?

  • Athlon uses the 65-team prediction model, eschewing the traditional Top 25 (they get pts for that). But Athlon goes waaaaaaaaay safe by predicting six of the elite eight the same as 2007 (Georgetown, Kansas, Memphis, UNC, Oregon, UCLA with Louisville and Tennessee added for good measure). UCLA defeats Carolina in the championship.
  • Big Conference Bias. 15 of its Sweet 16 are from BCS conferences – highly doubtful and incredibly LAME! NCAA Bids – ACC (5), Big Ten (5), Big 12 (5), Big East (9), Pac-10 (7), SEC (6).
  • Mid-Major Watch. Only Memphis from a mid-major conference (CUSA) into the Sweet 16. Mid-Major bids – 2 CAA (George Mason, VCU), 2 MVC (Bradley, S. Illinois), 1 A10 (Xavier), 1 Mountain West (BYU), 1 WAC (Nevada). We’ll bet anything Athlon’s editors choose that those six conferences will get more than eight bids next March.
  • All-Americans. Athlon really likes Drew Neitzel for some reason. He joins Psycho T, Chris Lofton, Roy Hibbert and Darren Collison (?) on their first team. They took a big flier on putting oft-injured Ronald Steele on the third team.
  • Boldest Prediction. It’s sad that we had to dig this deep to find it, but it’s probably their pick for Cornell to win the Ivy League over Penn & Princeton. The last time a team other than those two won the Ivy Championship was in 1988 with (guess who?) Cornell.
  • Total Points = 10

VI. Conference Pages (5 pts) – as a primer for the conference, how much can we learn here?

  • The major conferences get a predicted order of finish, a brief recruiting roundup, and three teams of all-conference selections plus a “superlatives” section, which is fairly weak compared to others we’ve seen (POY, DPOY, most underrated, newcomer).
  • The mid-major and small conferences only get a predicted order of finish, one team of all-conference selections and an all-time NCAA Tourney stat for the conference (which is interesting).
  • Total Points = 2.5

VII. Team Pages (20 pts) – how in-depth is the analysis? where does it come from? is it timely and insightful given this year’s squad or is it just a rundown of last year’s achievements?

  • All major conference and projected mid-major NCAA Tournament teams get a full page of analysis, including evaluations of the frontcourt and backcourt as well as a team roster (w/ stats) and a team-oriented stat.
  • Non-NCAA Tournament mid-majors and low majors get at most a half-page analysis and roster, but most only get a paragraph with a very brief synopsis.
  • Clearly much of the analysis is based on what coach’s interviews, which results in analyses from “glass half full” perspective. We would have liked to have seen more contrarian viewpoints.
  • The depth of analysis is solid if not spectacular for the major conference teams, but largely lacking for the others.
  • Total Points = 14

VIII. Recruiting (5 pts) – we want to know who the top players are coming into college bball, where they’re going and who to watch for next year.

  • Four pages of recruiting information, including the top 100 (Scout.com) of 2007, the next 200 players, and the top 20 by position. Solid raw data.
  • It also includes the top 25 classes, but only as a list, with no additional details.
  • The top 100 in the class of 2008, top 25 in 2009 and top 10 in 2010 are also listed.
  • Total Points = 3

IX. Title IX Guilt (aka Chick Ball) (5 pts) – the less the better…

  • Only two pages worth, and at the very back of the magazine.
  • Total Points = 5

X. Intangibles (15 pts) – what’s good and bad about the magazine as a whole?

  • In the past, Athlon’s mag hasn’t always looked as professional as some of the others. This is no longer the case. Its layout looks great, the photos and graphics are solid, and the writing has improved.
  • Because it comes out so early, the advantage it gains in being one of the first published is mitigated by other temporal factors. Most notably, there are no schedules within the magazine – for that reason alone, Athlon cannot be your “go-to” preview issue during the season.
  • Additionally, its early publish date means that it misses late summer news involving injuries, transfers and coaching changes. While they did get the Skip Prosser news in there, they did not, for example, consider how Andy Rautins’ knee injury will impact Syracuse.
  • As a nontraditional magazine (i.e., not Street & Smith or TSN), Athlon should have taken more risks with their predictions – going all chalk won’t separate it from the pack.
  • Total Points = 8

RTC Grade for Athlon = 60.5 pts

Basis: Athlon is on the lower side of quality with the preseason magazines, but they have gotten better, and there is some value in their analysis. Its best use (given its early arrival on the newstand) is simply to refamiliarize yourself with the names and faces of the upcoming season. We wouldn’t recognize purchasing it unless you simply cannot wait for the better ones to come out.

Grading Scale:

  • 90-100 pts - exceptional quality in all areas – must buy and keep on-hand all season!
  • 80-89 pts - very good quality mag – worthy of purchasing and reading cover-to-cover
  • 70-79 pts - average, run of the mill magazine – some value in certain areas but weak in others – tough call as to whether to purchase it
  • 60-69 pts - magazine on the weaker side, but may still have some positive attributes – probably not worth the money, though
  • 0-59 pts - such a low quality magazine that it’s not worth any more than the five minutes you thumbed through it at the store
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