Bouldin, Fredette top best non-BCS players; more mail (cont.)
I've been an Arizona Wildcats fan for many years (as I lived 32 of my nearly 47 years in Arizona). I wonder this: Would the Wildcats be as good, worse, or better than they are now if they had hired Josh Pastner instead of Sean Miller? I'm not complaining about the job Miller is doing (19-point win at ASU shows good progress) but there was a lot of support from fans in Tucson for Pastner. Whaddya think? Would Pastner have done well at his alma mater?
It's safe to say Josh Pastner would do well wherever he was coaching. But it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job at Arizona than Miller is doing right now. Yes, this is not a very good team, but neither is Memphis. Plus, Pastner had much more to work with by way of returning players (Nic Wise was the only decent returning vet at U of A), and he also got extremely lucky when Elliott Williams transferred from Duke and received a waiver from the NCAA to compete right away. Do you know where Memphis would be without Williams? About where Arizona is now.
Miller did an outstanding job bringing in quality freshmen last spring after he got hired, and he continues to make inroads on the trail with much help from the New York-area ties maintained by his assistant, Emanuel "Book" Richardson. The bottom line is, both Miller and Pastner are excellent recruiters and coaches who will represent their universities well in all facets of the job.
I think you need to consider Duke as one of the teams that might have hurt themselves with preseason scheduling. While it's great to make nearly everyone come to your court, a lack of road games (only Wisconsin and Iowa State) may have made them vulnerable to the road grind in the ACC. It'll be interesting to see if they improve on the road as the season wears on.
The list I compiled of teams that helped or hurt themselves was based purely on the RPI data. Duke's nonconference strength of schedule is ranked 34th, so Anthony's theory does not hold up. Plus, a team's NC SOS ranking really only comes into play if that team is on the bubble, and we all know that will not be the case with Duke.
That aside, I do agree that Coach K has been disappointingly passive in his nonconference schedule the last few years. Yes, Duke always plays great teams and rarely schedules a bunch of clunkers, but too often those games are held in neutral sites like Madison Square Garden instead of true road environments. (The Iowa State game was played at the United Center, not Hilton Coliseum.) And Duke had to play a road game at Wisconsin because it was part of the ACC-Big Ten Challenge. No wonder the team started off 0-2 on the road once league play began. They were unaccustomed to handling that type of test. To be fair, the Blue Devils are playing at Georgetown on Saturday, but I'd prefer to see them play more true road games in November and December to prepare for the rigors of conference play.
I liked your article on Jim Calhoun. And as much as I hate to see him go, if conditions persist, you may be right, and it will be time for him to retire. Which leads to the next question: Who would replace him? Calhoun's coaching tree is large, with former players and assistant coaches. Who would be your top nominees?
This is a tantalizing question, but I'll be honest with you, Lee: I have no idea. My guess would be that UConn would have go outside the family because there are no obvious candidates who either played for or coached under Calhoun -- which is odd considering how long he has been in the business.
The former assistant who had the most success as a head coach is Dave Leitao, but his resume is not exactly overwhelming. Following a mediocre stint at Northeastern (which culminated with his decision to rejoin Calhoun in Storrs), Leitao went 58-34 in three years at DePaul before being hired by Virginia -- and then fired four years later. Karl Hobbs is in his eighth year at George Washington, but his team is currently 11-7 (1-4 Atlantic 10). That leaves Tom Moore, who is in his second season at Quinnipiac, and Howie Dickenman, who is in his 13th season at Central Connecticut State. Glen Miller, another former assistant, would hardly be considered a hot candidate considering he just got fired by Penn midseason.
Nor has Calhoun groomed a successor on his own staff the way Syracuse's Jim Boeheim has done with Mike Hopkins. So it's a pretty open field. However, even though it's always hard to follow a legend, Calhoun has unquestionably turned UConn into one of the great jobs in America. When the time comes for him to step down, I promise there will be no shortage of very well-qualified candidates vying to take his place.
I know that no one outside of Minnesota cares, but I really feel like Tubby Smith has been nothing short of brilliant during his brief tenure with the Golden Gophers. He took a program that was pretty much dead and turned it around in a hurry. While the team is not ready to shine yet (as was evident in their loss to IU), they have shown huge progress under Smith. Can Minnesota fans be optimistic about the future, or is Tubby still not enough to bring a Big Ten title to the Twin Cities?
You think Tubby doesn't love coaching at Minnesota? Smith was never appreciated at Kentucky, even though he won an NCAA championship there and never finished his season short of the NCAA tournament's second round. Yet, at Minnesota he goes 17-19 in the Big Ten during his first two years and his team is currently 3-4 (12-7 overall) and I get an e-mail citing his team's "huge progress." That will get a guy through a cold Minneapolis winter.
I've made this point before, but if Tubby had a team in Lexington that endured the kind of turmoil his squad has dealt with this season, it would be a 24/7 soap opera. The reality is, Smith's players have had far too many off-court issues. It was questionable enough that he let freshman forward Royce White back on the team even though White has pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and theft for stealing clothes and shoving a mall security guard. Last week, White was also charged with misdemeanor trespassing in connection with an alleged theft of a laptop computer from another student's dorm room. (White is practicing with the team, but he has not played in a game.)
In addition, junior forward Trevor Mbakwe remains suspended while he awaits a court appearance on an aggravated battery charge, and last week the Gophers' starting point guard, Al Nolen, was declared academically ineligible and could be out the rest of the season pending an appeal. So forgive me if I don't see "huge progress." What I see instead is a program with far too many problems off the court.
Does Georgia look like a top 25 team next year if Trey Thompkins stays? On the same subject, what are the odds [athletic director] Damon Evans can keep Mark Fox from pulling a Tubby Smith if he's really the coach he looks to be at this point?
Again, it's amazing that a fan whose team is 1-3 in the conference (9-8 overall) is writing out of concern he might lose his first-year coach. There are a lot of guys out there with that kind of record who would be happy to hang on to the jobs they have!
Not that I disagree with Robert's assessment about Mark Fox. I thought it was kind of a strange hire because Fox has no history in that part of the country and no ties to the SEC, but there was never a doubt that the man was a good coach. The only thing sillier than the idea of losing Fox is the possibility that Thompkins would leave. He's a big, strong kid who has done well to expand his perimeter game, but it would be a huge mistake if he tried to turn pro this year.
I also anticipate that Fox will eventually lure some players to Athens because the state is always loaded with good high school players, but his top recruit for next season, 6-8 forward Cady Lalanne, is ranked No. 142 in his class nationally by Rivals.com. So I hope Georgia fans will keep their expectations reasonable. Fox's rebuilding project will take a little longer than Robert seems to be anticipating.