The opening game in last year’s season between Michigan State and North Carolina took place on the deck of an aircraft carrier, an unprecedented location for a college basketball game in the history of the sport. Back by popular demand and the opportunities it provides to our military personnel, many more college basketball games (and practices) are taking place at military bases or other aircraft carriers across the world this year. On Friday, Floridawill become the first SEC school to take place in one of these military-themed games against Georgetown on the deck of the USS Bataan in the Navy-Marine Corps Classic in Jacksonville. When asked about the specifics, coach Billy Donovan stated that the outdoor temperature, unusual sight lines, and unique atmosphere of the game will not affect the Gators’ game plan at all. The temperatures will be a bit cooler in this year’s game, hopefully avoiding a condensation problem similar to what arose during the game action in San Diego last year.
So what happened Tuesday night at Ole Miss? In non-basketball related news, Twitter conversations in Oxford regarding the presidential election results triggered university police to convene at the student union on campus to disperse an angry group of protesting students, some of whom were shouting racially-charged epithets according to a statement from the school. The result? Two arrests for disorderly conduct, one for public intoxication, and another for failure to comply with police orders were handed out. The university issued a statement stating the campus was ‘a normal day’ on Wednesday and all campus related events will go on as planned. Let’s hope so — Mississippi doesn’t have a history of racial enlightenment to fall back on here.
Can Tennessee make it nine straight wins versus UNC-Asheville next week in Puerto Rico? The Volunteers have history on their side, but the Bulldogs want to schedule a home-and-home series with the Vols and hopefully end the streak that way. Separated by only 117 miles across the Smoky Mountains, both Tennessee and UNC-Asheville ironically will travel 1550 miles to Puerto Rico for their latest game in the series. UNC-Asheville head coach Eddie Biedenbach is hopeful that a new arena on his side of the divide could trigger a local rivalry with the Vols, but there were no comments from Tennessee coach Cuonzo Martin on the subject. Also, Volunteers freshman Derek Reese began basketball activities again on Tuesday after tearing his right labrum over the summer. Reese participated in layup drills using only his left hand.
Mark your calendars appropriately: ESPN.com‘s Eamonn Brennan has compiled a list of the must-see non-conference games before New Year’s Day. Which SEC schools frequent the list? Kentucky and Florida, of course. Kentucky and Florida have four games each on the list, followed by Missouri with two games and Arkansas with one. The only two games that are not on campus locations include Missouri’s games in the difficult Battle 4 Atlantis Tournament and Florida’s match-up with Georgetown on the USS Bataan, off the coast of Jacksonville. These games will not only make for great viewing but also good early tests for all clubs before conference play.
What makes Kentucky coach John Calipari so successful? He has proven that he can corral the egos of mega-talented freshmen and mold them into a national championship squad using a style of play that best fits that specific team’s needs. In the 2010-11 season, Calipari used the reliable shooting of Brandon Knight and Doron Lamb to push his team to a surprise Final Four run. The previous team was centered around the play-making of John Wall and the size of DeMarcus Cousins. But how do these recruits end up at Kentucky and why does the Big Blue Nation adore their coach so much? Jason King of ESPN.com dubs the Calipari persona almost ‘gospel-like,’ breaking down Calipari’s unbelievable ways of operating a blue-blooded powerhouse, including recruiting, his relationships with hip-hop moguls such as Jay-Z and Drake, and his uncanny ability to make time (when he has none) to raise a million dollars via a telethon for Hurricane Sandy relief efforts.
And away we go, headfirst into another season heralded by our 2012-13 edition of Thirty Reasons We Love College Basketball, our annual compendium of YouTube clips from the previous season 100% guaranteed to make you wish games were starting tonight. We’ve captured here what we believe were the most compelling moments from last season, some of which will bring back the goosebumps and others of which will leave you shaking your head. Enjoy!
We all know Patric Young is a star, but you might not know that his stardom isn’t just confined to the basketball court. Young recently appeared in a commercial for the Providence School, the private high school he attended in Jacksonville, Florida. But don’t worry about NCAA sanctions for his involvement. The University of Florida compliance office has cleared him to participate under an exception allowing student-athletes to promote educational services as long as any payments for his services are donated to a non-profit agency. Young passed up entering the NBA Draft (and likely an opportunity to endorse products for money… that he can keep AND spend) for another chance to lead in his junior year with the Gators.
Frank Martin struck again with another big commitment for the class of 2013. Justin McKie, the son of former South Carolina guard BJ McKie, committed to Martin on Monday after a visit to watch the Gamecock football team beat up on Georgia on Saturday. “The visit went real well, just the atmosphere, just watching the football game and seeing those fans so excited about football, I feel like it can be that way for basketball,” McKie said. “I know coach Martin is a winner and is going to come in and get that winning tradition going. I have a lot of pride at South Carolina I want to be part of that.” McKie’s father, BJ, averaged 17.2 points per game over his career with USC, and is the Gamecocks’ leading scorer with 2,119 points.
Kentucky fans are seeking the second coming of last year’s super-human freshman center Anthony Davis, and many expect rookie Nerlens Noel to step into that role immediately. But don’t mention the comparisons to coach John Calipari. “He shouldn’t be compared,” said coach Cal. “They’re totally different. They’re not even the same. Nerlens is going to give us a different type of game. Anthony understood how to compete on possessions. Nerlens is still learning. Like, he’ll take possessions off. Well, you can’t do that. What he is, is a normal freshman.” Didn’t Calipari assure us that his Wildcats were not very good last year? We aren’t falling for your mind games again, John.
Kentucky has its fair share of celebrity followers, and Calipari knows how to treat a star. Drake snagged a national championship ring after pledging his allegiances to the Cats a couple of years ago. Ashley Judd can be found in Rupp Arena during big home games throughout the year. And she sure doesn’t sit in the nosebleed section. Now rapper Henry Ogirri recorded a song just about the Big Blue’s trek for a ninth championship. Somebody get this guy a gig at Big Blue Madness. A spot on the bench as a celebrity coach? Or at least some front row seats. What does a guy have to do to be the “Y” at halftime around here? Come on.
Brian Joyce is a writer for the SEC microsite and regular contributor for Rush The Court. Follow him on Twitter for more about SEC basketball at bjoyce_hoops.
It seems like all we talk about in these M5s are player eligibility issues, but something new is released almost every day. The latest release involves the other half of the top two players in the incoming freshman class (depending on whom you ask). With UCLA”s Shabazz Muhammad sitting in Westwood yesterday as his team flew off to China without him, SI.com‘s Pete Thamel published a piece revealing that the NCAA is taking a closer look at the recruitment of Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel, visiting his former high school for the second time in three months to inquire about some of the associations he has with various prep basketball hangers-on, and specifically, how Noel paid for some of his unofficial recruiting visits. As expected, Kentucky fans have been quick to play the victimization card by their media public enemy #1, Thamel, but the truth of the matter is that this is becoming NCAA standard operating procedure for elite recruits in today’s environment. Just this offseason, Noel, Muhammad, Providence’s Ricardo Ledo and NC State’s Rodney Purvis have been more carefully vetted by the NCAA, and in the era of players frequently jumping high schools, more and more powerful AAU basketball, and vast coteries of agents and runners looking for a piece of the action, these careful evaluations of elite recruits is going to continue.
It was therefore superb timing on CBSSports.com to release another of their Critical Coaches series Wednesday asking a question along these lines. They asked their coaching contacts which player’s recruitment from the last decade was perceived (there’s that word again) to have been the dirtiest? Recall that a couple of weeks ago, John Calipari, Scott Drew and Ben Howland were perceived to be the biggest cheaters in the sport — among the group of players named in this follow-up question, the top four named and six of the top 10 were recruits under either Calipari or Howland. Interestingly, none of Drew’s guys — from Quincy Miller to Isaiah Austin to Perry Jones — were named in this poll. But boy, both Calipari and Howland’s guys sure were — the top four: Shabazz Muhammad, Anthony Davis, John Wall, and Kyle Anderson. The next two on the list? OJ Mayo and Derrick Rose — two players who, you know, were proven to have committed serious violations during their recruitments. A number of other players received votes but it’s clear that, with nine of the 24 players named (Terrence Jones, DeMarcus Cousins, Enes Kanter, and J’Mison Morgan were also named), the Kentucky and UCLA head coaches are perceived to be playing a different game than everyone else.
Sigh… While on the subject of the shamelessness of some of the questions in this Critical Coaches series, would it be too much to ask the CBSSports.com gentlemen — all of whom are good and capable dudes — to follow up with some of the hundreds of coaching contacts they have and do the proper journalistic legwork to prove (or disprove) these perceptions? If Shabazz Muhammad’s recruitment is perceived to be the dirtiest in the last 10 years of college basketball (or Anthony Davis’… or John Wall’s… or Kyle Anderson’s… you get the point), how about spending some of that energy nailing the people responsible; or, alternatively, clearing those mentioned from that perception? It all just feels a bit too US Weekly, which as John Clay suggests, is fine if that’s what the site wants to be — but unlike most college basketball portals, that group has the resources, the time, and quite clearly the contacts to find out where the bodies are buried. Instead of pure sensationalism, how about digging up a few bones here and there along the way?
Let’s continue a theme with today’s M5 by mentioning that UNC has “quietly” moved its director of academic support services for athletes into another position at the university. Specifically, Robert Mercer, the department’s leader for 10 years, has become a “special assistant for operations” at the school’s Johnston Center for Academic Excellence (where everyone who wants an A, gets an A!). Sorry. UNC of course went to great pains to lay blame at the feet of Mercer for the problems that occurred under his watch, but it’s clear to anyone watching that he’s falling on the sword in return for an opportunity to keep his job (current salary: $81,900 + bennies). One note on this story — outside of Tobacco Road, it’s not well-known just how much vitriol exists between NC State and North Carolina. Take a read at some of the 15 pages of user comments under this Raleigh News & Observer article, and you’ll understand very quickly that the hatred between those two fan bases runs very, very deep.
Back to basketball. One of the best ongoing columns if you’re looking for insightful information about the sport is Mike DeCourcy‘s Starting Five piece. If you can get past DeCourcy’s floating head at the top of each article, it’s really an excellent read, and this week was no different. He doesn’t get cute with it, but the insight is that the questions he answers are often a step or two beyond the typical “how do you see XYZ next year?” type. In this installment, he discusses the paucity of elite point guards in college basketball, Keith Clanton’s loyalty to UCF, and the possible upside for a number of non-power conference teams, among other things. There are few regular offseason columns that we’d describe as must-reads, but DeCourcy’s Q&A is definitely worth a few of your minutes each week.
With most of America tuning into the London Olympics — brought to you in living color on tape delay — college basketball is considerably off the radar of most sports and Olympics fans alike. But there are still a few connections to the sport we love during the Olympics fortnight, and one of those is St. Mary’s star guard Matthew Dellavedova‘s representation as the lone one of only two collegians participating in this year’s basketball competition [ed. note: as noted in the comments, Andrew Lawrence of College of Charleston is the other]. A member of the Australian squad that dropped its first game on Sunday, 75-71, to Brazil, Dellavedova provided six points and three assists in 27 valuable minutes of action. The rising senior will no doubt use his experience in London this summer to prepare for what could be an All-American campaign in 2012-13. Another player with recent collegiate ties is quite obviously the 2011-12 NPOY Anthony Davis, who only saw spot action in Team USA’s convincing win over France Sunday, with three point and three rebounds in eight minutes on the floor. His head coach, Duke’s Mike Krzyezewski, was recently “got” by Deron Williams while stretching out his back in a yoga pose at a team practice. Funny, at first glance, we thought he was just instructing his stars on the finer details of how to slap the floor on defense.
While on the topic of Davis, Coach K, and the game that just won’t quit even 20 years later, it appears that the Kentucky superstar (born in March 1993) found some recent time in London for shenanigans with Public Enemy #1 in Lexington, Christian Laettner. The duo decided to re-enact the infamous “Laettner Stomp” on Wildcats forward Aminu Timberlake, only this time the roles were reversed. Of course, this does nothing to exorcise any lingering demons that UK fans may have toward the Duke superstar, but in the last calendar year Laettner has shown up in Rupp Arena to act as a “villain” — even going so far as mopping up the floor — and now this? Maybe in his middle aged years, he just really, really wants to be liked.
One current UK villain is Louisville head coach Rick Pitino — perhaps you’ve heard of him. Like him or hate him, he could always coach young players, though. Some of his motivational techniques are legendary, but he’s always been skilled in relating to his athletes by making comparisons to current NBA stars. In one such example as reported by the Courier Journal, Cardinal sophomore Kevin Ware has reconstructed his admittedly broken jump shot by reviewing frame-by-frame comps with Celtics star Ray Allen’s perfect form. It goes without saying that knocking down Js in practice during July is incredibly different than doing so in Madison Square Garden in March, but if Ware can provide scoring punch from the wing next season, the Cards’ might actually be the team to beat.
Although we don’t believe any sea changes are coming where elite recruits start to eschew high major programs in favor of mid-majors where they can become stars right away, the idea that the next group of Damian Lillards could go middie is interesting in the context of the transfer epidemic and the reality that high draft picks can come from anywhere. In just the past four NBA Drafts, lottery picks have come from Davidson (Stephen Curry), Butler (Gordon Hayward), Fresno State (Paul George), BYU (Jimmer Fredette), and Weber State (Lillard) — the average is a little more than one per year these days, so it’s definitely an attainable goal for players who find themselves somewhat off the beaten basketball path.
Could former Phoenix Suns and New York Knicks head coach Mike D’Antonibe signaling his interest in exploring college coaching through some of his latest comments made while at the London Games? The long-time professional coach whose unique offensively-oriented style of play would certainly find a willing suitor if he were indeed available, but he said that there’s a sense of “fun” and “energy” surrounding the college game and experience, which is more or less the exact difference between going to an NBA game versus an elite college basketball game. The two things simply are not comparable in most cases.
On Thursday, former Kentucky star and No. 1 NBA Draft pick Anthony Davis was summoned to Las Vegas to rejoin the US Olympic Team after Blake Griffin twisted his knee. If Davis makes the trip the London, he will give the SEC representation on the men’s basketball team for the fifth time out of the six Olympic teams featuring professionals. Davis faced off against his former college coach, John Calipari, as Team USA played the Dominican Republic in an exhibition game, destroying them. Davis scored nine points in just under 10 minutes of action late in the game.
Also on Thursday, the first ticketing options for Florida’s opening night matchup with Georgetown on the deck of a U.S. Naval aircraft carrier at Mayport was announced. Because military regulations do not allow individual tickets to be sold on active bases, city officials came up with a way to incorporate the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars into the event. From the Florida Times-Union, “Tickets for the basketball game will be coupled with a Jaguars game against the Indianapolis Colts at EverBank Field the previous night and sold as sponsorships, beginning Monday. The sponsorships won’t come cheap. They start at $1,000 and are priced as high as $50,000. The starting price includes a pair of tickets to the basketball game, two to the Jaguars’ Thursday night game, and a donation of four tickets to the Jaguars game for military personnel.”
On Tuesday, reigning national champion Kentucky released its non-conference schedule. While we knew there would be no Indiana, the home schedule features only one BCS opponent, Baylor, in a rematch of last season’s Elite Eight game. CBSSports.com’s Gary Parrish found several issues with the slate of games, opening his column with “Public relations is a tough business because it sometimes puts intelligent folks in a position to say or write ridiculous things in defense of, well, ridiculous things. Which brings me to the email that arrived this morning from the University of Kentucky announcing John Calipari’s non-league basketball schedule.It was, in part, headlined as follows: Wildcats face one of nation’s toughest schedules again.Um, no.But they will face Samford again!” He later cites message board posts titled “What a snoozefest for Rupp this year,” and “Probably the worst home [non-conference] schedule in Rupp history.”
Because of Missouri‘s jump to the SEC, they did not receive this year’s $12.4 million share of revenue from the Big 12, leaving the athletic program in a financial shortfall. According to the Kansas City Star, “the university will cover the debt and the athletic department will pay back the school starting in 2016.” In the same article Athletic Director Mike Alden “likened the situation to a bank providing a customer overdraft protection,” saying “Mizzou knows we’ll have an overdraft this year … and they’ll make sure all the bills are all covered,” he said. “But we’re going to start having to pay them back in three years.”
As part of week-long series on the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M, the Tampa Bay Times analyzed what the Tigers and Aggies will add to the SEC from a basketball perspective. The story quoted multiple established SEC coaches who sang the praises of the two programs. For example, Alabama head coach Anthony Grant said, “I think the potential for this to be the best our league has been in quite a while is there. Certainly, I think if you poll the coaches across the league, you would hear consistently this could be a banner year for our league in terms of teams we get into the postseason.”
The Carrier Classic and its descendents have received a fair amount of media coverage heading into next season, but hey, at least someone is trying to make the opening of the college basketball season interesting. Is it a cool grand worth of interesting? Our answer is… let’s just say that we’re banking on the free press pass. One of the new events scheduled for 2012-13 is the Navy/Marine Corps Classic in Jacksonville, Florida, which will feature Georgetown vs. Florida as part of a two-day event involving the hometown Jacksonville Jaguars (playing the Indianapolis Colts). Tying a college hoops game to the supernova of the NFL is probably never a bad idea, but we’re not sure that people will be lining up to watch a 5-11 team tacked on to an early regular season hoops game between two teams that have little to do with the other. All we can say is that we wish the promoters well with this idea.
It’s not official yet, but it appears the NPOY Kentucky center Anthony Davis has all but locked up a spot on the men’s national basketball team with the news that Team USA forward Blake Griffin has a torn meniscus. Last night in Las Vegas, Team USA played an exhibition scrimmage against John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team, annihilating a group led by Edgar Sosa, Al Horford and Francisco Garcia by a score of 113-59. Davis contributed nine points in 10 minutes of action late in the game, including a four-point play where he knocked down a three that he said Calipari wouldn’t let him take at Kentucky. With all the national discussion about whether the 2012 team could defeat the original 1992 Dream Team (answer: they could not), it’s still very cool that this year’s version of Christian Laettner might actually make a significant contribution to the fortunes of the Olympic team.
It’s somewhat hard to believe, but perennial sad sack athletic loser Caltech is in trouble with the NCAA. The Division III school which has more or less made a name for itself in these circles for its perennial athletic futility faces sanctions for playing 30 ineligible athletes in 12 sports. Although the basketball team finally broke through with a victory after a 26-year streak that ended in February 2011, that win will not be vacated as part of the NCAA sanctions. Still, the problem with the NCAA derived from an institutional process that allows students to shop for classes at the beginning of the semester — essentially making choices between Space Optical Aeronautic Engineering and Stochastic System Analysis and Bayesian Updating something that precludes athletic eligibility. Um, yeah.
What’s this? A pair of elite prep twins that are not already slotted to enroll at Stanford? Despite the historical precedent of the Collins twins (Jarron and Jason) and the Lopez twins (Brook and Robin) playing college basketball on the Farm (not to mention the Morris (Kansas) or Wear (UNC/UCLA) twins), it appears that the next generation of phenomenal hoops twins are headed elsewhere. Andrew and Aaron Harrison are a pair of Texas-based top five prospects within the Class of 2013, and recruiters are rightfully treating them as a package deal to the Final Four and beyond. As Matt Norlander notes, Kentucky, Villanova, Maryland and Baylor are the schools on the leaderboard, but whoever gets the duo will certainly have to consider their combo fashion tastes as well as Aaron’s proclivity for skateboarding.
Finally today, we end with yet another unintended consequence of conference realignment reaching down into the mid-major level. Boston University star Jake O’Brien, a senior forward who was once the America East ROY and an all-conference performer before suffering two years worth of injuries. He’s already graduated from BU, so given that his school is no longer allowed to compete in the America East Tournament, he’s looking for greener pastures for his senior season. In his last fully healthy year in 2009-10, he averaged 14/6 per game and will no doubt be able to provide some front court depth for a high-major team willing to take him on for a year.
Last night were the ESPYs, and somehow, neither of the #15 over #2 shockers during last year’s NCAA Tournament won ESPN’s award for “Best Upset” of the year, and Anthony Davis‘ epic season wasn’t even enough to win over voters in the “Best NCAA Male” category. Not even legendary Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski was rewarded for breaking Bob Knight’s all-time wins record. In general, college hoops was vastly overlooked during Wednesday’s 2012 ESPY Awards, but one shining moment came in the form of Indiana forward Christian Watford‘s wild shot to beat Kentucky back in December. “Watford For The Win!” was crowned with the “Best Play” award from the past year in sports; a very deserving honor for one of the defining moments of the 2011-12 college hoops season. ESPN announcer Dan Shulman’s call on Watford’s game-winner over the top-ranked Wildcats sticks as one of the great broadcasting moments in recent memory, as does Dick Vitale’s incomparable reaction and IU head coach Tom Crean’s shocked celebration. It’s hard to find a singular more significant or lasting moment than that one, as Watford beat out a field of 31 other nominees through a lengthy tournament vote. Unfortunately, John Calipari, Anthony Davis, Kentucky, Coach K, the final Border War, Lehigh, and Norfolk State were unable to seize any hardware against their considerably thinner fields of competition.
Watford’s buzzer-beating three-point shot marked the official return of Hoosiers basketball. One of our sport’s bluebloods, Indiana had struggled at the bottom of the Big Ten for several years, and the victory over UK symbolized a resurgence. Indiana quickly jumped into the top 15 of the polls and stayed there much of the season, eventually making a run to the Sweet Sixteen before falling to those same Wildcats in a rematch not played in the friendly confines of Bloomington. But Watford’s shot isn’t forgotten for Hoosiers or Wildcats fans, both of whom were heavily invested in that December game as part of a longstanding border rivalry (which was sadly not renewed for 2012-13), nor the entire world of college hoops, which sent off an explosion of posts and tweets on social media across the country.
Last night featured the annual ESPYs in prime time, and although the host of the event, Rob Riggle, struggled through numerous cricket-chirping moments, we still managed to sit through it. College hoops had a number of good candidates as potential winners (as we handicapped last week), but the crowdsourcing style of the event ensured that few were were validated. The Unibrow was up for several awards, including Best Breakthrough Athlete (which went to Jeremy Lin), Best Male College Athlete (Robert Griffin III, which is reasonable even if we disagree), and Best Team (even Big Blue Nation couldn’t overcome the Miami Heat). Perhaps the two awards that bothered us most were Coach K’s snub in Best Record-Breaking Performance (sorry, but a single-season NFL passing record doesn’t trump 900+ wins over a career) and Best Upset (how do the LA Kings outdo Norfolk State, a MEAC team, downing a team in the conversation for a #1 seed? Ridiculous.). The one silver lining for our game was that Christian Watford’s game-winning three to lift Indiana over #1 Kentucky back in December was chosen as Best Play of the Year. Oh well — that’s the nature of the event — fan voting. The women’s game, as an aside, cleaned up with Tennessee head coach Pat Summitt winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award (well deserved) and Baylor’s Brittney Griner winning both Best Female Athlete and Best Female College Athlete of the Year.
We know that Mike Krzyzewski may not have had a good enough year to win Best Record-Breaking Performance, but he’s more than good enough to lead Team USA into the 2012 Olympics in a matter of a few weeks from now. Interestingly enough, Team USA will scrimmage John Calipari’s Dominican Republic team tonight, but the real test for him and his charges is to come together as a team in the next few weeks so as to bring home another gold medal for USA Basketball. Dan Wolken writes that Coach K has had to take a different tack than he has at Duke in coaching the elite group of players he has on this team, and that, frankly, he’s a much more likable person in this setting than he is in Durham. It makes sense when you listen to Krzyzewski in any interview talk about his “kids” — his Blue Devils — but he also knows that the likes of LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Chris Paul and the rest are grown men who don’t need to be publicly protected or coddled. He’s not been so successful over these many years by not having a keen sense of that very thing — this is yet another example.
It’s been a week of coaching extensions, and Wednesday kept the rally going with the news that Quinnipiac’s Tom Moore recently received a one-year extension to his deal that will keep him under contract until 2016-17. In five seasons in Hamden, his teams have performed admirably well, going 93-65 with three invitations to postseason tournaments. At a NEC school, any postseason appearance is a cause for celebration, so even thought there haven’t been any NCAA bids in that period, a series of NIT/CIT/CBI isn’t too bad. Of course, if or when Jim Calhoun over in Storrs ever retires, the former Connecticut assistant Moore would already have his vehicle GPS set with the directions.
The nation’s top recruit in the Class of 2013 has narrowed his list down to only 10 schools. Jabari Parker used Twitter (what else?) to announce his revised list on Wednesday night, and here are the lucky suitors (he says they’re in no particular order): UK, Stanford, Michigan State, Kansas, Florida, Duke, BYU, Georgetown, DePaul, UNC. The Chicago native certainly has an interesting mix at play here, and perhaps most notably Illinois is no longer on his list. Aside from four of the top six programs of all-time (sorry, Indiana and UCLA), Michigan State, Florida and Georgetown are unsurprising choices. Stanford is clearly the academic choice, BYU is the religious one, and DePaul is throwing a bone to the homeys. If he really is the best high school prospect since LeBron (or Greg Oden), the school that gets him will have a tremendous shot at the Final Four during his only season on campus.
Finally, ESPN announced its 24 Hours of Hoops Marathon lineup on Wednesday, and although the Champions Classic games involving Michigan State-Kansas and Duke-Kentucky are the monsters, there are as always a number of other interesting matchups. WVU visiting Spokane to tip things off, followed by a Davidson trip to The Pit will be fun, but Harvard going to Amherst to take on UMass and a battle of blue-blooded mid-majors in Cincinnati are also well worth skipping out on work. Maybe there’s more coming in the next few months, but in past years there were multiple games broadcast in the evening hour slot, so hopefully ESPN will fill in the blanks a little more just in case one of those Champions Classic games isn’t worth the time.
NEWS FLASH: Anthony Davis is an extraordinary talent. You didn’t need me to tell you that. But the quality that makes him great is that he’s unlike any player we’ve seen before. Anybody can look at his 14.2 points and 10.4 rebounds per game and know that he was good last season at Kentucky, but you have to look past the box score to know his true effect. His uniqueness at the college level can be difficult to quantify. Sure, his statistics were solid, but it really only tells part of his story. What center before him had a similar game? Who did he play like? Who could block three-point shots like Davis? Those can be difficult questions to answer. Or perhaps it’s not difficult at all, because the answer is nobody. His uniqueness made him marketable and his marketability helped elevate him to another level. What other player could trademark something as odd as his notorious unibrow?
The fact is that Davis didn’t fit into the box of typical college centers. For that matter, he didn’t fit into a mold of any college player. But we had no way of accurately describing how truly different he was… until now. The good folks over at Statsheet.com have found a way to compare individual players using 12 statistical categories:
And of course, as I do with all the new Statsheet features, I played around with the tool for hours. What I found after comparing countless SEC players is what I thought to be true all season — Davis’ game has no comparison. Most SEC stars’ profile compares to other players in the 90th to 95th percentile. Try it out for yourself here. But when comparing Davis, he is truly unique.