In the down cycle that is College Hoops there are more things happening now than ever before. With June usually reserved for NBA and Stanley Cup finals the college basketball scene becomes back page reading. But now with realignment and the best of the Class of 2012 getting ready for their first semester in August, there is plenty to talk about.
*Kentucky captured their 8th National Championship and Coach John Calipari’s first title back in April. Anthony Davis, National Player of the Year and soon to be property of the New Orleans Hornets, led the Wildcats charge with a stable of former blue chip studs. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Marquis Teague, Terrence Jones, and Doron Lamb, just a few names that will be mentioned in the 2012 NBA Draft this month helped pave the way. How many Kentucky alum have been drafted the last two years? Seven. And that’s not counting this years’ crop. We could be talking as many as 13 players drafted in the three-year span. They have the #2, 8, 14, and 40 players on the Rivals 150 for the Class of 2012 signed and ready to rock. Nerlens Noel, Alex Poythrees, Archie Goodwin, and Will Cauley come in as Top 50 rated players. Simply put, that’s the definition of a program.
*Rick Barnes is entering his 15th season with the Texas Longhorns. His 330-133 record looks good to the outsider, and at a school know primarily for football and baseball you’d think more people would be happy with Barnes results thus far. He has one Final Four, three Elite eights, two National POY awards ( TJ Ford ’03 & Kevin Durant ’06) and he also has had 16 players drafted in his Texas tenure. That’s impressive considering UT only had 18 players drafted EVER before Rick’s arrival. The problem surfacing in Austin is his lack of winning once the Horns are in the NCAA’s. One Sweet Sixteen in his last six years is causing the rumblings. That looks bad when he took teams to four Sweet 16?s in the seven years before. One issue Barnes has had are players leaving early for the NBA or International riches. Every major program in college basketball has had these issues in the last 20 years. Kevin Garnett started a trend that affected the sport deeper than anyone could have realized. So this should not be an excuse for Barnes. Texas has had six players drafted in the last two years. Nice stat, except their .500 in conference play in that time period, too. That simply won’t cut it. Camron Ridley is on the way. The post player from Houston, TX (#29 Overall) with natural center size (rarity) and decent ability is very much needed in Horns paint area. He will start from Day 1. The biggest recruit Barnes have may nabbed was already on his roster. Myck Kabongo decided to stay for his Soph year and the program desperately need it. The point guard showed flashes of brilliance but was average and overwhelmed for the most part. His return is critical and Kabongo, united with Ridley, might just be what Barnes needs to return to Sweet 16 relevance.
*Hoosiers. Bobby Knight. IU. Last undefeated team in NCAA in ’76. Larry Bird. French Lick. Damon Bailey. Reggie Miller. All things that make you think of basketball and greatness. Indiana is synonymous for hoops success. Now you can put Tom Crean and Cody Zeller on that list. Not because they accomplished much. But because those two names are the reason for IU’s recent upswing on the college landscape. And they’ve just got started. They beat eventual NC Kentucky in the regular season and made it all the way to Sweet 16 in March Madness only to lose to Kentucky. After being relatively quiet from 04-09 and surviving the Kelvin Sampson debacle the program was in need of a vitamin B shot. In walks Tom Crean, the classically looking coach who had once talked Dwayne Wade into moving from Chicago to Wisconsin. He brought credibility, energy, and discipline. Mainly he brought passion. something Indiana fans sorely need. The crave. Desire. They loved Bobby Knight for his tirades because his passion was evident 24 hours a day. Crean offered a similar form to that. And its working.
*Last week Dekalb, MS high school star Devonta Pollard verbally committed to play basketball at the University of Alabama. He was considering Texas, Georgetown, and Missouri. The 6’7 200 lb small forward is a joy to watch. Smooth, effortless stroke helps him as shooting is a strength. I also noticed the little things. He moves very well without the ball and makes good decisions with it as well. He does however dribble a little too high, and obviously needs lots of work in the weight room. He’s the #28 player nationally on the ESPN 100. The Crimson tide and coach Anthony Grant nabbed a keeper.