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Tuesday Morning Point Guard

December 2, 2003 Columns No Comments

Tuesday Morning Point Guard

by Dean Austin

What superb basketball this past week, especially for so early in the season. My initial sense is that there will be no one great team this year but at least a half a dozen who are all very close. This should make for a fun season.

Ten College Basketball Thoughts

1. Although Michigan State lost their huge early season match up with Kansas, I have a sneaking suspicion that they got much more out of the contest than Kansas. Two things became obvious. Chris Hill isn’t going to be their point guard and they need to get Maurice Ager on the floor as much as possible.

1a: At one juncture Michigan State looked like they were going to get blown out. That Coach Tom Izzo got them back to the point that an errant Chris Hill outlet might have been the only thing that stopped the Spartans coming all the way back is a testament to Izzo’s intensity.

2. As good, or more accurately as interesting as the Spartans vs. Jayhawks match up was, Arizona vs. Florida was even better. Just the first weeks of the season and yet you could make the case that you would be hard pressed to come up with a better pair of Final Four contests. A game that was entertaining throughout and came down to a final missed Arizona shot from Salim Stoudamire. Florida’s Matt Walsh looks like a very nice player

3. Given the lack of top class point guards at the major championship contenders this year I was intrigued to see that Florida has two players who can play the position well. Anthony Roberson is the starter but the revelation was the ability of 6’9 Dane Christian Drejer to step in and play very well when Roberson was on the bench. Drejer is a match up nightmare and could really help Billy Donovan’s squad in the crunch. Florida was the most impressive team I saw all week, and this from a team with one senior and two juniors. The rest are sophomores and freshman. If, big if, Donovan can keep them around this team could dominate.

4. The silliness that is preseason polls was shown well and truly I thought this past week. Syracuse, Connecticut, Duke, and a number of other well regarded teams all falling to perceived lesser competition. Yet all three will no doubt be ranked higher than their conquerors in this week’s poll. Maybe it’s just me but I find that awfully strange.

5. The general comment about Pre Season NIT Champions Georgia Tech seems to be “Who would have thought?” Er… well me, for one. It’s taken Paul Hewitt a little longer than I anticipated in turning around the Yellow Jackets but a couple of years ago Hewitt was the hottest coaching property around while at Siena. Georgia Tech wisely snagged him in 2000 before one of their rivals and Hewitt took a senior laden team to the NCAAs his first year winning ACC coach of the year. Since then he’s been rebuilding the program but this was a very nice payoff. I don’t expect the Yellow Jackets to disappear from the national scene either this year. This is an excellent group and Hewitt is one of the top 10 coaches in the county.

6. Want to know why Connecticut and Syracuse struggled early? Connecticut was 10-30 from the free throw line in their loss to Georgia Tech. Syracuse had 4 players with over 35 minutes in their defeat at Charlotte. Down 50-29 at half Syracuse mounted a fierce comeback that ultimately fell short but essentially playing 6 players is not the way to go.

6a. And where on earth did Brendan Plavich come from, 30 points on 10-17 shooting from 3 point land! And some of those shots were from way way way down town! Impressive display and a name I’ve added to my list to watch more this season.

7. I noticed that once again Texas Tech has scheduled their pre Christmas game on December 22nd rather than the 24th. Throughout the country the legion of headline writers sighed and filed away for another time “It was the Knight before Christmas.”

8. The Perils of being a columnist part II. Cal is just killing me, now at 1-2 after going on the road to UNLV and losing by a couple. Once again sensational freshman Leon Powe was at the forefront leading the Bears in points but also minutes played. Powe’s a stud but this much this early means I may very well have got it wrong about Cal’s depth this year.

9. Loved the fact that Dayton won over in Hawaii. Poor old Flyers though, they just got Brian Gregory but if the Coach keeps this up one of the big conference teams is going to snag him very quickly

10. Yeah I know this is kind of eating your young but I love Michael Ermitage’s column about the “Missing Five” from the Top 25 here on Hoopville. Best comments I’ve seen about the silliness of pre season polls, well other than my own!

Five Non-College Basketball Sports thoughts

1. If you ever needed a specific example of everything that is wrong with college athletics you got it this week in the form of Nebraska athletic director Steve Pederson. The Huskers AD fired head football coach Frank Solich who had the temerity to be only 58-19 in his tenure at the school. Unlike so many schools there is no hint of a scandal at Nebraska. The team is competitive every year and this year is 9-3. Unfortunately for Solich Oklahoma is riding high and on their way to a probable national championship. You can hear the tantrum all the way from Lincoln. It is this kind of decision that creates the win at all costs mentality that has caused so many problems at places such as Baylor this past year and at numerous schools in the past.

2. Fascinating as to the difference one player can make. The return of Michael Vick and Chad Pennington makes both the Falcons and the Jets two teams that no contender wants to play going down to the end of the season. I’ll be very interested to see how the Colts respond against Vick and his Falcons December 14th. If Manning and co. do a number on Atlanta I think that will say more about the Colts and their post season aspirations than any victory over Denver or Houston.

2a. Similarly Pennington and his Jets can certainly put a crimp in the AFC East title hopes of either Miami or New England.

3. First of all congratulations to Sylvester Croom for landing the Mississippi State head coaching job in football this week. Croom is a popular coach in the player’s coach mode and should do well in Starkville. I must admit, however, to being confused about all the rhetoric that is being thrown around. Earlier this year there was a general brouhaha over Mike Shula a less qualified white coach being given the Alabama job instead of Croom who is black. Every news report I’ve seen about Croom’s appointment to Mississippi State mentions this. Yet nothing is being said about Croom. He is, I suppose technically was, a Running Backs coach with the Green Bay Packers. I fail to see how this qualifies you to be a head football coach at a major college over say an offensive or defensive coordinator at a major program or in the NFL. Ted Cottrell for example, who also happens to be black, is the defensive coordinator of the New York Jets. Where is the outrage that an obscure, albeit well respected assistant was plucked from the NFL rather than a top coordinator?

3a. And for the bigots out there, on both sides, let me state my position clearly. You give me a billion bucks, my own NFL franchise and my choice of anyone in the league and I hire Tony Dungy as my coach. What I object to is the double standard. Sylvester Croom is the right man at the right time for the right job. Is he the best qualified man for the job? Of course not, but that’s the way the world works. Life isn’t about who is the most qualified, it’s about who fits for whatever reason; good or bad. At Alabama that was Shula and at Mississippi State that is Croom. Neither is as qualified as Cottrell.

4. There are major changes coming to the 49ers this off season. Expect both Jeff Garcia and Terrell Owens to leave. Coach Dennis Erickson needs the team to click next year because by 2005 Steve Mariucci will have the Lions humming along and the 49ers senior management is going to look awfully silly for letting Mooch go.

4a: Eli Manning would look rather good in a Niner uniform. I think he’s going to end up with the Saints but you never know.

4b: I see that the Lions activated WR David Kircus from the practice squad. A 6th round pick out of Grand Valley State Kircus was my sleeper pick of the draft and I was stunned that Kircus didn’t make the team earlier. Kid catches everything thrown his way.

5. Pitching wins the World Series. Curious that the Yankees responded to the Schilling trade by picking up Gary Sheffield. Schilling is a noted history buff, even owning his own wargame company. I like that he was intrigued by the historical perspective of removing the curse from the BoSox franchise. My take; within five years Theo Epstein makes the right moves to bring Boston a championship, maybe even this year.

And a couple of Non-Sporting Thoughts

1. Thunderbirds are go! Gosh I hope they don’t screw it up. Thunderbirds, for those who are not initiated, was the glorious marionette adventure series from Gerry Anderson in the 1960’s. Watch TechTV or buy a DVD set at Borders to see more. Great stories that still hold up today and remain extremely popular in the UK. So much so that a live action – sacrilege – version directed by Jonathan “William Riker” Frakes and staring Bill Paxton is currently filming. According to a recent issue of Premiere the story of the movie is a prequel taking place 10 years or so prior to the TV show. I really really hope they don’t screw it up.

1a. And for those of you that find Thunderbirds a joy, check out Captain Scarlet, a grittier series also from Anderson. I’ve heard rumors that Anderson is considering a new series of Captain Scarlet, still using marionettes, so you’ll need to story so far.

2. Speaking of Soundtracks… I’ve been listening again to various compositions of John Williams. As much as I enjoy the two soundtracks from the Harry Potter series, I hear in them constant echoes of Williams’ work in the past such as Star Wars and Indiana Jones. Williams is not alone in this, just the other day I realized that Pirates of the Caribbean has a theme that was used in Gladiator. Curious. As I expand my library, I’m on a soundtrack buying binge at the moment, I wonder how many more examples I will find.

3. Want a great read for that trip to the family this Christmas? Oldies but goodies include The Brotherhood of the Rose by David Morrell, Replay by Ken Grimwood, The Matarese Circle, Bourne Identity and Holcroft Covenant by Robert Ludlum. Find them at a local used book store.

The TMPG Power Poll

I’ve had some questions asked concerning my Top 25 – my Power Poll. Let me try and explain. The pre season #1 is last year’s National Champion, in this case Syracuse. The initial criteria for #2-#25 are set by last year’s NCAA tournament. So Kansas was #2. Texas lost to Syracuse in Final Four, so they are #3, Marquette lost to Kansas etc etc. That’s the starting point. I use the following criteria for the positions.

1. If you beat a higher ranked team you take their spot. The higher ranked team moves down half the distance between its old ranking and the victor’s old ranking.

2. If you lose to a higher ranked team you move down 1 position, i.e. Michigan State will move down one for losing to Kansas.

I’ve used the system myself in the past just for keeping track of teams throughout the season. It is very good in showing which teams are over hyped by the media but have not played quality teams or at least beaten them. Boston College a couple of years ago was a good example. An East Coast media darling they were heavily touted and flopped in the NCAA tournament. To the best of my recollection they had not beaten any team in my Power Poll and I was highly suspicious of them.

Please understand the TMPG Power Poll is not meant to be a statement as to who is the best team in the nation. The best team hardly ever wins the National Championship. Case in point last year, Carmelo Anthony is a supreme talent but Syracuse was in no way the best team. Connecticut for one was far superior and I’d also take Kentucky to win nine out of ten against the Orangemen. But that doesn’t matter. Syracuse did what was necessary to win; they earned their Championship by beating the teams in front of them.

What the TMPG Power Poll does show is who has yet to acquire their lofty reputation via results. Missouri is the current poster child for this. On what basis are they #2 in the Hoopville Top 25? What did they accomplish last year? Who have they beaten this year? Oakland and only just. That’s it. They had a great recruiting season again but until they beat someone, anyone, I can’t see them in the Top 20 never mind #2.

TMPG Power Poll for December 01, 2003
1. Charlotte
2. Kansas
3. Texas
4. Marquette
5. Oklahoma
6. Florida
7. Kentucky
8. Michigan State
9. Auburn
10. Purdue
11. Georgia Tech
12. Pittsburgh
13. Michigan
14. Syracuse
15. Duke
16. Notre Dame
17. Arizona
18. Maryland
19. Wisconsin
20. Butler
21. Oklahoma State
22. Connecticut
23. Arizona State
24. Missouri
25. Colorado


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