It’s a somewhat weird time to come out with a Top 15 list for the 2011-12 season, but the folks in the City of Angels would be remiss if they didn’t do things a little differently. There are no major surprises in this version, but Alabama at #11 is a bit ambitious for an NIT team. The Big East carries the day with four teams — #4 Connecticut, #5 Syracuse, #13 Pittsburgh, and #15 Louisville — which are the same four (albeit in a different order) our conference correspondent Brian Otskey chose in his summer update yesterday. The team that is consistently showing up in everyone’s top ten because of its returning talent but despite consecutive First Round upsets as high seeds is #6 Vanderbilt. The trio of Jeffery Taylor, John Jenkins and Festus Ezeli are all-SEC talents, but we’re going to need to see a little more evidence of getting over their mental hangups before believing that Kevin Stallings’ team is better than the likes of #7 Arizona or #8 Wisconsin.
We may have missed out on this until now, but you shouldn’t. CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd and Brett McMurphy are halfway through a five-part series examining cheating in college football, and it’s clear that, put rather simply, cheating pays off. In part three, an examination of the five-year program outcomesafter major violations, the writers found that winning percentages actually rose. Although their analysis doesn’t touch on college hoops, we all know that athletic departments are often rather insular places — some of the findings from this analysis will without question apply to basketball programs facing similar demands for success and a common enemy (the NCAA). It’s a thoughtful series of pieces, and we highly recommend that you keep up with it.
The hits keep on coming at Wake Forest, as the Demon Deacon basketball program, still reeling from the ouster of head coach Dino Gaudio last summer, lost two more players on Monday. Rising senior/perennial disappointment Ty Walker and rising sophomore Melvin Tabb were suspended from the squad indefinitely, with no reasons stated other than to say the causes were not academically-related. You probably recall that Tony Woods, one of the other highly touted recruits along with Walker in the Class of 2008, was booted after getting into a fight with his girlfriend that resulted in a misdemeanor assault charge against him. He was also suspended at Wake indefinitely, eventually left school, and is expected to suit up at Texas next season. Wake was one of the worst power conference programs in America last season; head coach Jeff Bzdelik has a huge rebuilding project ahead of him for the Deacs to merely rise back up to respectability.
While on the subject of disappointments, Mississippi State’s Renardo Sidney has transformed himself Jerod Ward-style from one of the elite players in his class to someone many scouts believe may have peaked at the age of 16. The Jackson (MS) Clarion-Ledger caught up with Sidney as he is spending his summer working out at John Lucas’ facility in Houston, and having already lost 23 pounds, he seems motivated to get back into shape. At his playing weight of 270 lbs. last season, he averaged 14/8 but often appeared winded and uninterested for several plays at a time. There’s not much question that Sidney has the requisite size and touch to play this game for pay, but second and third chances won’t come easily, so he’d serve himself well to come into next season at a chiseled 250 lbs. and enjoy the spoils of hard work that will accompany it.
Oregon State’s Roberto Nelson came to Corvallis as the most highly-rated recruit to enter the Beaver program in years. After two-thirds of a freshman season in 2010-11 where he averaged 8/2 APG in about 17 minutes per contest, big things are expected for the talented Southern California native. During a recent summer foreign tour called “Beavers Without Borders” in Macedonia, as the below video shows, Nelson destroyed a glass backboard with a dunk in a game that seemed more pick-up than organized (start at the 2:00 mark). The ensuing spill Nelson took as a result of his force was no joke, as he celebrated his powerful jam in the aftermath with a bloodied and broken nose. This isn’t the Jordan Crawford/LeBron dunk from a couple of summers ago, but expect to see this one shown on numerous Pac-12 broadcasts next season.