The Badgers are going to win the Big Ten this season -- and while most of the attention is on their senior duo of Alando Tucker and Kammron Taylor, the secret ingredient will be sophomore Marcus Landry, who was academically ineligible for the second half of last season. The 6-7 wing, who averaged 6.0 points and 3.1 rebounds in 15.4 minutes/game as a freshman, gives UW a sorely-needed boost of athleticism in the swing offense. With specimens such as Tucker, Landry, center Greg Stiemsma (who was also ineligible for the end of '05-06) and incoming freshman point guard Trevon Hughes, the Badgers should be able to shed their plodding image and make some national noise.
Gotta dig into the murky world of message boards for this nugget, but if you're in the minority who doesn't expect big things from Roy Hibbert this season, check out his unofficial stat-line from the famed D.C. Kenner League title game this summer: 32 points (8-for-11 on FGs, 16-of-19 on FTs), nine rebounds, two blocks -- against a team led by ex-Maryland star Lonny Baxter. The championship took place on July 30, just 17 days before Baxter's infamous gun-near-the-White House incident. I speculated in the blog a few weeks back that it might have had something to do with a grudge against Karl Rove ... but maybe Baxter was just frustrated about getting beat by Big Roy?
One of the weirdest moments of the summer was center Aaron Gray's noon-hour workout for NBA scouts during the pre-draft camp in Orlando. A crowd of nearly 60 scouts showed up to see a legit 7-footer who was a force in the Big East last season ... and the crowd dwindled to less than 20 by the time it was over. It was a boring, 45-minute session, and there was no free lunch served, but it was a little awkward to watch. Every time a scout hit the door, though, I imagined a Pitt cheering section erupting with chants of "One More Year" and "Big East Champs."
The best piece of college hoops investigative work from the offseason was Jeff Miller's Sept. 24 report in the Dallas Morning News on college teams' "coincidental" payments to big-time prospects' high school and AAU coaches for summer-camp speaking engagements. Nothing unearthed in the report was an NCAA violation, but it was most damning to Kansas, which had paid seven coaches -- all of whom were tied to major recruiting scores -- $2,000 each in the summer of 2005. A&M, meanwhile, cut checks to three current or former coaches from Seagoville High in Texas ... which just happened to be the same school that produced incoming Aggie freshmen Derrick Roland and Donald Sloan. The schools insist that the summer-camp employment is a standard practice, and all teams do it ... but that doesn't make it seem any less alarming.
Memo to my bosses, re: my rankings and a recent Mark Gottfried quote in the Mobile Register: Please note that I am confidently slotting the Tide at No. 10, as a I believe any squad with one of the nation's best point guards (Ronald Steele) and a big-time center (Jermareo Davidson) is legit. And please note Gottfried, a well-respected coach and also a qualified consultant on newsroom-employee benefits, said this week: "The writers and editors who are picking our team high need to go on vacation for a while."