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Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis – August 17, 2017

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Welcome to the latest edition of Talking Hoops With Ted Sarandis. The summer is nearing an end, but we’ve had a couple of big stories this week, so it was an opportune time to look at the goings on there.

We start with some news out of Spain, where a terrorist attack hit Barcelona recently. That alone is noteworthy, though not so much in college basketball until you realize that four Division I programs from here are currently on a trip there. It’s not every day that four programs are on one of these trips to about the same area, but Arizona, Clemson, Oregon state and Tulane were all there.

Fortunately, everyone traveling with all four programs is known to be safe at this point. The end effect on the trip is different for each school, but safety is paramount and from that standpoint this trip will be a success for all four programs.

Next, we look at a big development from a couple of nights earlier, when Marvin Bagley III opted to re-classify into the high school class of 2017 and spend his one year of college at Duke. It’s a big deal in terms of the preseason picture, as this likely makes the Blue Devils the preseason number one pick for many.

Even with the addition of Bagley, Duke is not a slam dunk to win it all. While they have plenty of talent, an important question arises with regard to veteran leadership, especially since a number of key players from last season’s team left.

From there, we look at the news of the American Athletic Conference announcing that its tournament will be held at the new Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas, from 2020 through 2022. The arena will open in 2019 and has already gained several big events in college sports. What we also talk about is if this could be indicative of something else: a move of the American Athletic Conference office, which is in Providence, Rhode Island – an hour from the nearest conference member, and with no other conference member within driving distance.

We then turn to the SEC, which in recent years has been labeled a “football conference” while not having much basketball success. On the hardwood, it has largely been Kentucky, Florida and everyone else. But since mid-March, the conference has had a lot happen that could be a good sign. South Carolina made the Final Four, while two others made the Elite Eight – no other conference had as many teams reach that round. Alabama brings in a very good recruiting class, many schools look to be on the verge of getting much better, and then Missouri hired Cuonzo Martin to become their head coach – and that got them a influx of talented recruits that make the Tigers a trendy pick to make a big jump and reach the NCAA Tournament in 2017-18.

Along the way, we look at the SEC being on the verge of a nice improvement in light of a couple of key hires over the last year or so. The SEC lured Dan Leibovitz away from the American Athletic Conference to be in charge of men’s basketball, and they hired former Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese as a consultant. Both appear to be on the verge of paying big dividends.

One SEC team that has not had a good time of it has been South Carolina. Their Final Four run will be a great memory, but the Gamecocks, who were already losing senior Sindarius Thornwell, have since watched P.J. Dozier leave early and Rakym Felder get arrested a second time, prompting a suspension that will include not attending classes for the fall semester. Frank Martin has the program in a very good place, but the 2017-18 season is looking less promising now.

Finally, we touch on a story that has emerged recently about former UConn head coach Jim Calhoun. Reports have suggested that he is interested in coaching the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford when they begin a Division III program in another year. If Calhoun’s health will allow it, it would be quite a story, and one more example of how college coaches find it so hard to get away from the game. Calhoun is as competitive as they come, so we know those juices have surely been flowing. Should he take this job, however, it will be very different than what he was used to at a Division I school, as Ted notes in drawing upon the experience of others who made a similar move later in their careers.

We hope you enjoy this podcast and share it with your fellow basketball fans. Stay tuned for more podcasts coming up soon, and continue to check in as we continue our written coverage as well.

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