A way too early, too early top 25.

June 29, 2010
How to seed the new 68 team tournament?

 I make it no secret that I’m a huge “underdog” kind of guy.  If I’m flipping through the channels and run across Siena versus West Virginia, then I become a Saints fan for 40 minutes.  So when the speculation began about how to seed the new 68 team tournament I sided with the “last at large teams” camp.  Even trying to put my bias aside, I still can’t support an option that would punish automatic qualifiers just because of the conference they play in.

 The solution is obvious of course: a compromise.  Simply split the spots between the last at-large bids and the worst auto qualifiers.  The teams from both camps with the worst records go to the play in gam- oops I mean Opening Round.

 Since it makes the most sense though, it probably won’t happen.

 A way too early, too early top 25:


1. Michigan State: Tom Izzo.  Period.  The man has proven time and time again that he can coach.  This team returns a talented core group and should quickly learn how to make up for the loss of Raymar Morgan.

 2. Purdue: Matt Painter has built something in West Lafayette.  E’Twaun Moore,  JaJuan Johnson, and Robbie Hummel are serious talents.  The Boilermakers could see some time at the number 1 spot next year. 

 3. Duke: Coach K has an irritating way of keeping Duke up there with the best teams in the country every year.  I don’t think this year’s team will be as successful in the long run as last year’s team; but I do expect them to be a consistent top 5 team all year.

  4. Villanova: I will admit to not knowing a whole lot about this ‘Nova team.  I know they lost Reynolds, who should have been drafted by the way, but that is about it.  This pick is based on what I’ve read from others who put them as the Big East favorites.

 5. Baylor: What Scott Drew has done in Waco is amazing.  They lose Udoh, but they keep LaceDarius Dunn.  This is my favorite to win a slightly weaker, but deeper, than normal Big 12.

 6. Pittsburgh: Pitt is similar to Villanova for me.  I just don’t know a lot about them, but others seem really high on them.

7. Ohio State: Ohio State has become a talent converter.  High School talent goes in, NBA talent comes out.  Losing Turner hurts, but when you return a pretty talented group and add five star players it becomes a little easier to stomach.

 8. Temple:   This is one of those teams that is making people look at the A-10 a little differently.  They won 29 games last year, and hung around in the top 15.  With 3 starters returning they shouldn’t lose anything this year.

 9. Kansas State: Kansas will not be as good as they were last year.  Kansas State should be just as good as they were last year, if not better.  There could be a brief paradigm shift within college basketball in the state of Kansas.

 10. Kansas: Speaking of Kansas, I have the Jayhawks checking in just behind KSU at 10.  A bad year for Kansas is a good year for a lot of schools.  Still the Jayhawks will be weaker than last year, meaning a weaker Big 12, leaving room for KSU and Baylor to work their way into the top of the conference.

 11. Kentucky: Kentucky loses 5 players to the draft.  That is a real team killer, right?  Well, not exactly, at least not when you land the top recruiting class in the country.  This incoming class won’t be as hyped as last year’s class.  It might not even be as talented pound for pound; but it should make for a much more balanced and dynamic team.  More of Coach Cal’s trademark DDM and less standing around outside of a zone.

12. Memphis: Josh Pastner is the Plato to Calipari’s Socrates.  An upbeat recruiter who makes pulling in top prospects look easy.  Going up against a mediocre CUSA should give the Tigers a good record come March, and they will have enough talent to make some noise.

 13. North Carolina: They can’t struggle two years in a row can they?  They will be weak in the front court, but loaded in the backcourt.  A strong conference showing and they should be dancing again, but who knows with this team?

 14. Florida: Florida is one of two SEC teams, along with Kentucky, that I think will jump around the 10-15 range all season.  They have talent, but I’m not convinced they have the right kind of talent at the 1 and 4 spots to properly run the system Donovan has established.

 15. Butler: The Bulldogs lose Hayward, which drops them about 8 spots from they would have been otherwise.  Don’t expect them to slip quietly into the night however, as Brad Stevens is set up for the long haul.

16. Vanderbilt: Vanderbilt loses a significant portion of its scoring, and is going to face questions at PG; but Jenkins and Taylor look ready to step into their own as All SEC caliber scorers.

 17. Gonzaga: I hate to call the ‘Zags a one man band, but they are here because of one man and one man only: Elias Harris. 

 18. BYU: Jimmer Fredette returns to the Cougars with aspirations of winning the MWC title and making another run in March; but they will face some pretty stiff competition from UNLV and New Mexico.

 19. Missouri:  Fun to watch, and now more talented than they have ever been under his watch, Mike Anderson’s Tigers will look to challenge for the Big 12 title.  This is a bunch that could just as easily shoot up the rankings as slip out.  If they can remain consistent then there is nothing holding them back from joining KU, KSU, and Baylor higher up the rankings.

 20. UNLV: A talented group without a real star to take over the game when it’s needed.  Still the Runnin’ Rebels should be the second strongest team in the three team fight for the MWC title.

 21. Tennessee: Where to put Tennessee?  This seems too low, but at the same time I have no idea what the Vols are going to look like this year.  They lose a lot of scorers but retain Hopson and add Tobias Harris.  I’m putting them here for now, with the expectation that they could easily move up.

 22. Syracuse: The Orange won’t be as good as last year.  Short and sweet.  Straight and to the point.

 23. Virginia Tech: I’m not sold on the Hokies.  They do have a great player in Delaney, and a real chance at making the NCAA tournament, but I wouldn’t put money on them.

 24. Murray State: People will sleep in the Racers, and they shouldn’t.  This is a tournament team that won 31 games last year, lost a close one to the eventual runner up, and returns 4 of its top 6 scorers.  Oh yeah, and three of those returning scorers averaged in double digits last year.  They will get their chance to prove themselves early in the 76 Classic with Stanford, UNLV, and Virginia Tech.

 25. Richmond: Another one of the teams that is making people think twice about scheduling A-10 teams.  Their chances of a repeat trip to the NCAA tournament look good.


Looking At The SEC’s 10 Best Recruits.

July 1, 2009

1. John Wall


Height: 6’4”

Weight: 184lbs

Rivals: ***** (5)

Scout: ***** (5)

Position Rank:

Rivals: #1 PG Scout: #1 PG

John Wall has blazing speed, and excellent ball handling. He is good at finishing around the rim but isn’t as creative as some others in the class like Boynton. He can find his teammates with very good passes, and can at times pass with flair. He isn’t the best scorer or the best passer, but he is great at both. In the Dribble Drive Motion offense he will excel at attacking the rim and also in finding his open teammates. Has the speed to cover the floor before anyone else on the fast break. He really needs to work on his outside shooting. His outside shot is the one glaring weakness on his game. Opposing teams will already be looking to zone the DDM, and Wall isn’t really a threat to bust it. Is a one and done player.


2. Renardo Sidney

Mississippi State

Height: 6’10”

Weight: 250

Rivals: ***** (5)

Scout: ***** (5)

Position Rank:

Rivals: #4 PF Scout: #2 PF

Sidney is probably the most impressive of all the recruits coming into the conference this year. At 6’10” he can put the ball on the floor, knock down the outside shot, or score with his back to the basket. There have been comparisons to Kevin Garnett, and when you see Sidney play it is easy to see the similarities. He finishes well, plays facing the basket and can score in ways not many his size can. His ability to handle the ball is probably the most impressive thing he brings to the table, but he will make his living scoring a few feet outside of the lane. He has the size to play the 5, but it wouldn’t surprise me to see Varnado stay in the Center spot, allowing Sidney to use his abilities out in “no man’s land”. He does needs to work on his post skills; and there is question if he will qualify.


3. Kenny Boynton


Height: 6’2”

Weight: 185lbs

Rivals: ***** (5)

Scout: ***** (5)

Position Rank:

Rivals: #5 SG Scout: #4 SG

Boynton is going to score his point, regardless of whom he is playing against. He has a solid jumper, albeit with a slow build up, and is great at shooting off the dribble. He is a bit undersized for the 2 spot, and he doesn’t have all of what it takes to be a true PG, but his scoring ability makes up for most of his deficiencies. He is creative at the rim and can finish even with contact. Can score in a variety of ways. If he plays the PG at Florida he should be able to adequately perform the role of PG in the Spread Pick And Roll offense. His passing ability should be up to par with that needed to run the point in the Spread Pick And Roll, but his decision making with the ball could be his biggest hurdle. Regardless, he has the ability to score in about 15 different ways coming off the screen. He is probably a one and done player.


4. Demarcus Cousins


Height: 6’9”

Weight: 245lbs

Rivals: ***** (5)

Scout: ***** (5)

Position Rank:

Rivals: 1#PF Scout: #2 C

Cousins comes into college with an NBA ready body. He is a great low block scorer who plays facing the basket. He can run the floor. Has tremendous upside. Should electrify crowds with his ability to throw it down while running the floor. He can step out from the basket, be he doesn’t have the perimeter shot to be an effective Wing the Dribble Drive Motion. While he is a good low block scorer, what little I have seen has been against smaller opponents on rebound put backs. I think he won’t be quite as effective from the low block against college defenders. Is a one and done player who would probably benefit from several years in college.


5. John Jenkins


Height: 6’3”

Weight: 180lbs

Rivals: ***** (5)

Scout: **** (4)

Position Rank

Rivals: #6 SG Scout: #9 SG

Jenkins is a shooter. He has been called the best shooter in the class, and he will probably be the best shooter in the conference from the start. His ball handling is a weak spot. He is in the mold of a Jodie Meeks or Stephen Curry type of player- and lighting up the score board from deep certainly seemed to work for those two. You cannot give Jenkins even an inch of space, as he will make you pay for it. He is a good student with high basketball IQ. Jenkins should be a perfect fit for Vanderbilt and a key component in them having a tremendous year. If he stays four years he could be one of Vandy’s All-Time leading scorers.


6. Daniel Orton


Height: 6’10”

Weight: 260lbs

Rivals: ***** (5)

Scout: ***** (5)

Position Rank:

Rivals: #4 C Scout: #4 C

Orton is a true Center, and a good defensive player- he is a deceptively quick shot blocker. Though not super athletic he runs the floor well when rewarded, and has an instinct to hustle that isn’t found much these days. Daniel has a solid, though awkward looking, jumper around the lane. He also has a Patrick Patterson-esque ability to turn and seal out his defender on the lob pass. He has an incredibly strong body. Orton could go pro after one year, but my money would be on him staying at least 3. In the end I think he stays more than one year and outshines his much more hyped teammate Cousins; finishing his career rivaling Patterson in popularity as a modern UK Big Man.


7. Marshawn Powell


Height: 6’7”

Weight: 225lbs

Rivals: **** (4)

Scout: **** (4)

Position Rank:

Rivals: #20PF Scout: #15 PF

I haven’t been able to see much of Marshawn Powell. Granted watching Youtube clips isn’t a perfect way to judge a guy, but it is better than nothing- and when it comes to Powell there is basically nothing out there. From what little I have seen though he appears to be a bit of a hybrid player. He has the size and quickness of a 3, but the skills and strength of a 4. He is a good rebounder and can score with his back to basket. He can also hit the face up jumper, but isn’t a consistent enough threat to pull the defense out. He is the type of player that can dominate against teams that try to make up for their lack of a dominant post player with speed. With the big men that are entering the SEC this year Powell probably isn’t going to get top billing, but in four years he should be considered one of the leagues best low block scorers.


8. Reggie Buckner

Ole Miss

Height: 6’8”

Weight: 210lbs

Rivals: **** (4)

Scout: ****(4)

Position Rank

Rivals: #5 SF Scout: #25 PF

Buckner is a long and athletic combo player who is probably best suited for playing the 3 in college. His post game isn’t quite strong enough to be a reliable Power Forward; from the Small Forward spot though Buckner is a defender’s nightmare because he can get to the rim with ease. He rebounds in traffic very well; as a defender you have to keep a body on him at all times or he will clean up every miss with a put back. With more of an outside game he could be considered one of the better recruits in this class. He should be a solid four year player who has more positives than negatives if used right.


9. Kenny Hall


Height: 6’9”

Weight: 215lbs

Rivals: **** (4)

Scout: ****(4)

Position Rank

Rivals: #21 PF Scout: #11 PF

Kenny Hall is a bit of an enigma to me. There isn’t much footage of him on the net that I have found and none of the free scouting sites, for what they are worth, have much about him. The few minutes of footage I have seen though makes me understand why Bruce Pearl recruited the kid: he is perfect for Pearl’s offense. Hall fits the mold of Tennessee big man perfectly, coming in as a slightly taller Tyler Smith and a lighter Wayne Chism. He is athletic, runs the floor very well, rebounds with a spring in his step, and can hit a face up jump shot. If you leave him open he will make you pay for it most of the time. He can also guard the 3-5 positions. In four years he should be playing the role of Wayne Chism and leading Pearl’s Volunteers into the NCAA Tournament.


10. Erik Murphy


Height: 6’10”

Weight: 220lbs

Rivals: **** (4)

Scout: ****(4)

Position Rank

Rivals: #22 PF Scout: #12 PF

I put Murphy here in the last spot not necessarily because he is more talented than Eric Bledsoe or John Riek, but because he is a perfect fit for Billy Donovan’s system. While Bledsoe will benefit from the DDM and be a huge part of UK’s success, with Wall also on the roster he isn’t as key of a component. The same can be said for Riek, who is coming in more as a project player and with Varnado and Sidney on the roster won’t see the same playing time that Murphy will. Erik Murphy is a face up Power Forward who has the quickness to work in the Pick And Roll offense, and the necessary ability to drain the long distance jumper. He might even be better suited to the offense than Noah was. He has a good ability to play in the paint and score off the pivot. He needs to improve his ball handling, defense, and ability to pull down the rebound in a crowd.


This leaves off a lot of talented players like Eric Bledsoe, John Riek, Lakeem Jackson, and Shawn Kemp Jr.; but these are the 10 guys that I see having the biggest immediate impact on the league.

The Daily Pick And Roll (06/29/09)

June 29, 2009


Yeah, so it is taking me much, much longer to go through the SEC recruits and pick out which ones I think are at the top of the pile, and then do enough research to write a solid tidbit on them.  I spent the last hour and 40 minutes or so working on it and only got about 5 guys down and I have at least 5 more to go.  So it is going to be another day on this…


*UPDATE* (06/30/09)

I didn’t finish the recruiting breakdown last night… ok I’ll admit it, I didn’t even start it.  I absolutely will tonight though.  Won’t be able to work on it untill I get  home from work though because I am swamped tonight.


Well, it has been a few days since my last post; and I just wanted to get something up here to show that the blog isn’t dead.  I have come to the conclusion though that daily updates, during the offseason at least, are just way too much work.  Believe it or not, with no headlines or games to discuss it is more work to come up with an idea for a daily post than it actually is to write it.

So until the season rolls around the Daily Pick And Roll isn’t going to be so daily.  I’m still hoping to do at least one special post each week though.  Closer to the end of the summer when the rosters are more final and schedules are released I am going to profile the SEC teams.

Tonight when I get home I am going to being work on, and might possibly finish and post, a quick look at the top recruits coming into the SEC this year.

Two things of note: UK has filed a motion to have Billy Gillespie’s lawsuit either dismissed or moved to the state of Kentucky.  Former Duke guard Elliot Williams has announced he is transferring to Memphis to be closer to his ailing mother.

The Daily Pick And Roll (06/25/09)

June 25, 2009


The question of where Vanderbilt fell in the 09 Maui Invitational came up over on the SECFanatics forum, so I figured I’d take a stab and ranking the field.

 Ranking The 2009 Maui Invitational:

1st place: Maryland                   5th place: Arizona

2nd place: Vanderbilt                6th place: Cincinnati

3rd place: Wisconsin                  7th place: Colorado

4th place: Gonzaga                     8th place: Chaminade

 Maryland and Vanderbilt return key players and add talent.  Wisconsin, Gonzaga, and Arizona lose guys to graduation and/or the draft.  Cincinnati has just never taken off under Mick Cronin.  Chaminade belongs in the Big-12 just as much as Colorado does; or at least that is how it seems with the way Colorado has played over the past few seasons.  Of course all of this really depends on the initial pairings.


Hastily Made Cleveland Trade:  (if you haven’t seen the Hastily Made Cleveland Tourism Video then you need to)

 Changing gears a bit I’d like to say something about the Shaq trade in the NBA.  I’ve seen lots of people talking about this and questioning if Shaq is a good move for the long haul.  It’s obvious that he isn’t; but I don’t think the Cleveland brass is thinking about the long haul here.  They know James could be leaving next year, so it is their best shot at winning a title.  When you look at Cleveland from this past season the first thing you notice is that James was the only threat to score.  You could have played a box defense on James, leaving every other player wide-open and the Cavs still couldn’t have beaten most teams in the league.  It took James going every night and being the workhorse scorer.

 By bringing in Shaq you are bringing in a guy who can still put up 15 or 16 points a night and be a second focusing point for the defense.  That is 15 points a night that James doesn’t have to score for Cleveland to win.  This also helps Cleveland’s case for keeping James.  Sure, Shaq isn’t the long-term answer, but this shows that Cleveland is willing to do what it takes to help build something with James instead of on top of James.

The Daily Pick And Roll (06/24/09)

June 24, 2009

In honor of tomorrow’s NBA draft I have decided to use today’s Daily Pick And Roll to talk about a guy you’ve probably never heard of but should have.  His name is Lester Hudson and he played the last two seasons for the University Of Tennessee at Martin.  The 6’3” combo guard averaged over 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game.  He dropped 20 points on both Tennessee and Southern California.  Most guys learn to play the game, but Lester Hudson was born to play it.

Hudson can play at either the one or two positions, though his true ability as a distributing point guard is as of yet unknown- because he scored on the majority of his team’s possessions.  He isn’t a selfish player though, quite the opposite, he loves to make the guys around him better; there just wasn’t another dynamic scorer on the UTM roster. 

How he came to be at UTM is as inspiring as the numbers he puts up.  Hudson grew up in a rough part of Memphis, where he rarely attended school.  The coach at his high school found him in a gym class one day, he got Lester going to classes and playing on the team.  But Hudson was ruled ineligible to play his senior year because of age restrictions.  After losing basketball Hudson began to slip back into his old ways and eventually left school without a diploma.

His coach got him into a junior college where he earned his GED but failed to meet the core requirements for graduating.  An assistant at UTM, and an acquaintance of Hudson’s high school coach, brought Hudson onto campus.  Unfortunately since Hudson hadn’t graduated from junior college, he had to sit out his first year at UTM and take out a student loan to pay his own way.

Now as a senior he is entering in to the NBA draft where he is most likely a lock in the second round.  I personally am hoping Hudson comes in his rookie year and lights it up.

Offensive Breakdown: The DDM

June 23, 2009

*Disclaimer: This is my understanding of the basic concepts of this offense.  There are literally more individual variations of each offense than there are separate offensive sets.  I don’t claim to be an expert at any variation of said offenses, I just do my best to understand the basics.*

The Dribble Drive Motion offense (DDM) has taken the basketball world by storm. Much like how the spread offense has penetrated every level of football, elements of the DDM are now being used by everything from club teams to professional teams. Unlike more traditional offenses that rely on advancing the ball via the pass the DDM, as the name would imply, uses dribble penetration.

At first glance understanding how the DDM works seems like a daunting task. In reality the offense in the half-court is based on a few simple concepts:

-Attack from the weak side.
-Everyone rotates to fill the open spot when the ball moves forward.
-The ball handler has the option to dump to the post, kick out to the wing, or score.
-Always keep proper spacing.
-The post player always dives to the opposite side of the lane.

Basic Continuity

In this very simple diagram you can see the basic continuity that makes up the offense. The Point Guard (1) drives the ball looking for the lay up. He has to read the defense to determine what to do. If the post defender helps over to stop him then he should pass to the Center (5). If the wing defender helps over to stop him then he should kick out to the Wing (3).

You can see that the Shot Guard (2) rotates over to fill the PG’s spot and the opposite Wing (4) moves up to fill the Shot Guards empty spot. This movement also opens up a back pass to the SG. After the PG gets rid of the ball he moves over to fill the spot left open by the opposite Wing. Now looking at the floor it looks nearly identical to the original set. You now simply rinse and repeat.

This is the most basic continuity that makes the offense work. Of course things are added to this, but this shows off the underlying concepts that everything else utilizes.

The DDM relies very heavily on the players being able to read what the defense is giving them. If you have a very skilled post player who has the advantage over his defender you can start the play the reversing the ball to the SG at the top of the key. The post player can then post briefly allowing the SG time to attempt a pass. If that pass isn’t there then the post player moves to the other side of the floor to switch the strong and weak sides. The play could then be run with the SG making the first drive.

Moving Without The Ball

On top of the basic concepts, you can also add rules for how to move without the ball.

1) Never move toward the ball. This destroys spacing.
2) If the ball is dribbled towards you around the outside then you either:

a. Cut backdoor
b. Set a screen

Again, reading the defense is key here. If your defender is over playing you then setting a screen would simply clog things up; and if your defender is sagging way off then going back door is useless.

This is the DDM broken down into a simplified dribble penetration continuity offense. I know it isn’t much, but honestly I don’t know what else to talk about. If you have any questions feel free to post them in the comments section. I am more than happy, no in fact I would be ecstatic, to answer your questions to the best of my ability.

The Daily Pick And Roll (06/23/09)

June 23, 2009

It is the offseason, and the headlines reflect it.  Nothing really to report on today other than ESPNU is playing college basketball games again tonight, and I believe they are also replaying the 1998 Powerade Jam Fest.


Since there isn’t much to cover today I’m going to start a segment called Controversial Call where I will give my opinion on a basketball related hot topic making its way around the internet. 

*Update: I also hope to start working on a breakdown of the DDM offense tonight when I get home from work.*

Controversial Call


The so-called one-and-done rule has inevitably changed the face of college basketball.  Talent that used to go straight to playing in the NBA now spends a year haphazardly attending college classes and pouring in points during the NCAA tournament.  Now, I don’t want to paint all one-and-done players with the same brush.  I know that not all of them take junk classes and skip so much that they kill their teams APR.  Some of them even end up sticking around for more than one year; but lets be honest about it, most of them wouldn’t be in college if it wasn’t for the rule.

This has been a boon for low-major and mid-major programs.  Talent that used to find its way onto the floor in Lexington and Chapel Hill now plays in Starkville and Spokane.  There is a real sense of parity in college basketball these days.  Being a big proponent of mid-major schools, I think this parity is great as a spectator of the game.  One has to ask himself/herself then if parity is worth making a sham of higher education.  Does having players who don’t want to be there watering down what used to make college basketball so great?

The answer, to me at least, is that yes it is ruining what used to be special about college basketball.  The top players in the country no longer care about winning national titles.  They no longer have the same passion for their school or hatred for their rivals.  They are simply there to bid their time until the end of June.