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The 'Bag is back

Preseason thoughts from around college hoops world

Posted: Wednesday November 15, 2006 4:53PM; Updated: Thursday November 16, 2006 9:40AM
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Brandon Rush has the Jayhawks atop SI's preseason poll, even though defending champion Florida has all five starters back.
Brandon Rush has the Jayhawks atop SI's preseason poll, even though defending champion Florida has all five starters back.
John Biever/SI
Grant Wahl will periodically answer questions from SI.com users in his mailbag.
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Hard as it is to believe, college basketball is back. And that means so, too, is the 'Bag, which has been beating the bushes on our annual preseason sojourn around the world of college hoops. We hope you're as fired up for the start of the season as we are, so send in your questions for next week. In the meantime, we'll provide our own queries to get the ball rolling.

What were some of the random things you learned on your preseason trips?

Among other things, the 'Bag discovered UNC stud Tyler Hansbrough's uncle is three-time world long-drive champion Sean "The Beast" Pfister; that Florida's Joakim Noah really is a 7-footer (even though he prefers to be listed at 6-11); and that Arizona superfrosh Chase Budinger chose to play hoops even though the prep volleyball star was "the closest thing we've seen to Karch Kiraly in 30 years," says none other than Kiraly's longtime coach and trainer, Mike Rangel.

We learned that the hottest place to spend your summer training is the bachelor pad in Rancho Santa Fe, Calif., owned by Arizona alums Luke Walton and Richard Jefferson. "They're kind of still college boys having fun, but they handle their business," says Wildcats forward Jawann McClellan, one summer guest. "The vibe I get is that if you're affiliated with the U of A you're always welcome." (Regrettably, Chez Luke-Richard Not Mbah a Moute doesn't have a 14-foot-high tepee in the backyard like Papa Bill Walton has at his San Diego compound.)

And we learned that Tar Heels boss Roy Williams takes more epidurals than a woman in labor. "I hurt my back last season and had 10 chiropractor appointments, eight acupuncture sessions and three epidural shots just to get through the season," says Williams, who somehow avoided the knife. "My doctor said if I'm really disciplined about my stretching I can push my surgery down the line." (Since Ol' Roy is getting all New Agey on us with the acupuncture, the 'Bag will recommend the Ayurvedic massage treatment we got over the summer in India, but only if Williams can handle getting a massage from a dude while wearing something skimpier than a loin cloth. Come to think of it, let's just move on. Next question!)

Um, why does SI have Kansas No. 1 when the Jayhawks have lost in the first round of the NCAAs the past two years ... and when defending national champ Florida has all five starters back?

We just don't think enough people are making a big deal about Florida's loss of Adrian Moss. (Just kidding.) I look at this more as an endorsement of Kansas than a dis of Florida. The Jayhawks have ridiculous amounts of talent, depth, speed, defensive tenacity, experience, good coaching and, yes, unselfishness (none more so than star Brandon Rush). Aside from Florida, nobody was better than the Jayhawks during the second half of last season, yet because of the first-round loss to Bradley most observers are going to undervalue KU big-time.

(UPDATE, 9 a.m. ET, Nov., 16: High comedy in Lawrence on Wednesday as Oral Roberts knocked off the Jayhawks 78-71. To which we 1) are reminded of the SI jinx, and 2) remind you of this score involving our preseason No. 1 in Week 1 of the 2004-05 season: Santa Clara 77, North Carolina 66. Things turned out OK for those Tar Heels, didn't they?)

As for Florida, I'd love to see the Gators make a run at college hoops immortality by becoming only the second repeat champ in the modern (post-1984) era after Duke in 1991-92. But just because Florida will almost surely be better than last year doesn't mean that it can rip off six straight tournament wins again. Just ask the last national champ to return all five starters: Arizona in 1997-98, which earned a No. 1 seed but ran aground in the regional finals to Rick Majerus' triangle-and-two. I could see something similar happening to the Gators.


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