|I'd say this look just about says it all...|
At the start of the game, I was rooting for Butler. I don't hate UConn; I actually kinda like them this year. They did, however, knock off my team and since I hold sports grudges for eternity, I had to hope for their downfall. Also, I like Butler. I don't want to be one of those people who over analyze things and go on and on about how Butler represents all that is good in sports, but I do greatly respect how they go about their business. I love how successful they are with upper class men, I love how fundamental they are, and, most of all, I love how hard they play. It's not always easy to get guys so committed to fighting on both ends of the floor like Butler does and so it was definitely nice to see two teams who fight extremely hard matched up against each other for the ultimate prize.
It really did seem like it would be a good game. Seriously! In one corner you had an extremely young and athletic UConn team that depended heavily on one player to carry them. In the other corner you had a veteran, battle tested Butler team that had an extremely balanced attack. Both teams were extremely physical and extremely well coached. Yes, it certainly seemed like it would be a fun match up to close out the 2010-2011 season...and then Monday happened.
What went down between Butler and UConn was one of the most painful things I have ever watched. I know sports doesn't always look pretty and the game can't always be well played, but who knew it could get this bad? Getting back to what I was saying, I started out rooting for Butler. Before you accuse me; no, I'm not a finicky fan who changes team allegiances based on who's winning! I didn't cheer for UConn at any point. Towards the end of the first half, I dropped all team interests and literally cheered for the game to finally end. I WAS CHEERING FOR THE NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME TO END! In all honesty, I'm pretty sure I would have rather sat and watched an all day 'Frasier' marathon than watch another second of the middle school girls basketball level of play that occurred Monday night.
Over the last few days, there has been a lot of media talk centered around the game and the unbelievably low quality of play. Now, we can sit here all day and talk about what's wrong with the game. We can talk about tournament expansion, the erosion of youth basketball, and one and dones. Truthfully, I think all are real problems, but I don't want to use this space to deal with that now (you can bet I will in the future though!). The ironic thing is, despite everyone (myself included) pointing the finger at one and dones, it was the more experienced team that collapsed!
Butler fans; I really do feel for you. Falling one game short is hard enough; doing it twice is just cruel. It's not just the losing though, it's how it happened. Having a poor game is one thing, but shooting a record low 19% is something else altogether. Believe me, as a Boston Celtics fan, I really do understand. Even still, Game 7 of last years NBA Finals falls short of the atrocity of Monday's championship game. I think the defining image of the game is Brad Stevens in the second half; standing on the sidelines with his arms folded and a grim, defeated smile on his face, knowing there is no strategy, no game plan, no ingenius play he can design that can make the ball finally go in the basket.
There were a lot of great things about the 2010-2011 season, but it really sucks to go out with that image burned into my head. So let's just go ahead and turn the page on last season and look forward to next year! I know, I know, there's still the matter of early entry and transfers and what not. Who cares? There's plenty of time to talk about who's leaving and who's staying. Truth is, despite the apocalypse of sports that was Monday's game, I already miss college basketball! I'm ready for next year! Let's start ranking some teams!
Here is my way, way too early pre-season Top 10. Here are the parameters: I am assuming anyone who has not declared is still on the team and anyone who has declared, regardless of him hiring an agent or not, will stay in the draft. Recruiting rankings are all taken from Rivals.com and I am only listing recruits ranked in the top 150. Also, I take a stance where I belive almost nothing a players says about staying in school. Even if they say they will be staying, I remain skeptical and I will list them as possible early entry candidates. Obviously, many things will change from now till the beginning of next season. Believe me, I will waste both my time and yours with constant updates of my Top 10. (I love lists and I love rankings!)
- Last Year: 29-9 (10-6, 3rd); Lost in Final Four
- Key Returnees: G Brandon Knight (17.3ppg, 4.2apg); F Terrence Jones (15.7ppg, 8.8rpg, 1.9bpg); G Doron Lamb (12.3ppg, 48.6 3pt%); F Darius Miller (10.9ppg); G DeAndre Liggins (8.6ppg)
- Key Losses: C Josh Harrellson (7.6ppg, 8.7rpg, 1.5bpg)
- Potential Early Entry Losses: G Brandon Knight, F Terrence Jones, G Doron Lamb, G DeAndre Liggins
- Recruiting: #1 Class (PG Marquis Teague #1 PG/#2 Overall; SF Michael Gilchrist #1 SF/#3 Overall; PF Anthony Davis #2 PF/#6 Overall; F Kyle Wiltjer #6 PF/#25 Overall)
- Outlook: How dare you accuse me of bias! Look, assuming everyone comes back (not likely), Kentucky will return five of its top six players and add the nations top recruiting class along with them. And this was already a Final Four team! The incoming crop of freshman have already been described as every bit as good as the Wall/Cousins class from two years ago. Gilchrist and Davis, in particular, are instant impact stars. Add them to a more developed and experienced group of studs like Knight/Jones/Lamb and toss in a couple seniors in Miller/Liggins and you have an incredible team.
- Big Question: How do they replace Josh Harrellson? Look, Josh was never the most talented or athletic guy, but he provided a toughness and a physical presence that will not be easily replaced. While Davis provides a much more dynamic and athletic presence, he lacks the strength to bang with guys like Jared Sullinger. Terrence Jones has the strength to fill some of that void, but will he even be here next year?
- Last Year: 29-8 (14-2, 1st); Lost in Elite Eight
- Key Returnees: C Tyler Zeller (15.7ppg, 7.2rpg); F Harrison Barnes (15.7ppg, 5.8rpg); F John Henson (11.7ppg, 10.1rpg, 3.2bpg); G Dexter Strickland (7.5ppg); G Kendall Marshall (6.2ppg, 6.2apg)
- Key Losses: None
- Potential Early Entry Losses: C Tyler Zeller, F Harrison Barnes, F John Henson
- Recruiting: #4 Class (PF James McAdoo #3 PF/#8 Overall; SF P.J. Hairston #5 SF/#14 Overall)
- Outlook: Zeller and Henson have already publicly stated their intention to return (we'll see) so this team is going to be stacked regardless of what Barnes decides. Once Kendall Marshall stepped in for the departed (and crappy) Larry Drew, UNC once again looked like a championship team. Frontcourt depth was a serious issue last year, so the addition of McAdoo is huge. If you watched the McDonald's AA game last week, you know just how good this guy is.
- Big Question: Can I come up with a big question? No, seriously, I'm trying! OK, the concern for UNC fans is obviously whether Barnes comes back or not. He is their go to scorer at the end of games and those guys are hard to replace. If he leaves, who steps up? If he stays, how can I arrange for Larry Drew to return and screw this whole thing up?
- Last Year: 32-9 (9-9, 9th); NCAA Champion
- Key Returnees: G Kemba Walker (23.5ppg, 5.4rpg, 4.5apg); G Jeremy Lamb (11.1ppg); C Alex Oriakhi (9.6ppg, 8.7rpg, 1.6bpg); G Shabazz Napier (7.8ppg); F Roscoe Smith (6.3ppg, 5.2rpg)
- Key Losses: None
- Potential Early Entry Losses: G Kemba Walker, G Jeremy Lamb
- Recruiting: Unranked Class (PG Ryan Boatright #11 PG/#48 Overall)
- Outlook: We all know Kemba's not staying another year so this outlook is kinda pointless. Lamb, Oriakhi, and Smith are all very high ceiling players who could very well take a big step next year. Even without Kemba, this will be an interesting young team; definitely not a top 10 team, but interesting.
- Big Question: Is Jeremy Lamb an idiot or not? Word is he is a possible late 1st round pick at this moment. That's great and all, but he has the opportunity to do so much more. If he comes back, he's the man, and he definitely has the ability to be one of the best players in the Big East. After that, Lamb can bankroll his play all the way to the lottery. DON'T BE STUPID JEREMY!
- Last Year: 34-3 (16-2, 1st); Lost in Sweet Sixteen
- Key Returnees: C Jared Sullinger (17.2ppg, 10.2rpg); G William Buford (14.4ppg); F DeShaun Thomas (7.5ppg); G Aaron Craft (6.9ppg, 4.8apg, 2.0spg)
- Key Losses: G Jon Diebler (12.6ppg, 3.1 3pg, 50.2 3pt%); G/F David Lighty (12.1ppg)
- Potential Early Entry Losses: C Jared Sullinger, G William Buford
- Recruiting: #10 Class (SF Sam Thompson #14 SF/#46 Overall; SF LaQuinton Ross #16 SF/#53 Overall; PG Shannon Scott #17 PG/#65 Overall; C Amir Williams #7 C/#73 Overall)
- Outlook: Jared Sullinger says he's coming back and, in this rare instance, I believe him. That immediately puts OSU back in the national picture. They have a lot of leadership and perimeter scoring to replace with the losses of Diebler and Lighty (did he play 12 years or was it just me?), but the development of Thomas, Craft, and Sibert along with the incoming freshman should help fill that void. In particular, I'm a big fan of LaQuinton Ross. He's another big wing player who can really shoot.
- Big Question: Who steps up as the third scoring option? Like I said, Diebler and Lighty are big losses. While you can't replicate what either did, you have to have someone to take some of the offensive burden off Sully and Buford. Enter DeShaun Thomas. This guy was a huge recruit out of Ft. Wayne and I think he's going to have a huge year. He struggled at times with his shot selection last year (a huge understatement; never met a shot he didn't like) but he's extremely skilled and a year of experience, along with a bigger role, will do him wonders.
- Last Year: 35-3 (14-2, 1st); Lost in Elite Eight
- Key Returnees: F Marcus Morris (17.2ppg, 7.6rpg); F Markieff Morris (13.6ppg, 8.3rpg); G Tyshawn Taylor (9.2ppg, 4.6apg); G Josh Selby (7.9ppg); F Thomas Robinson (7.6ppg, 6.4rpg); G Elijah Johnson (3.4ppg)
- Key Losses: G Tyrel Reed (9.7ppg, 1.9 3pg); G Brady Morningstar (7.1ppg, 3.3apg)
- Potential Early Entry Losses: F Marcus Morris, F Markieff Morris, G Tyshawn Taylor, G Josh Selby, F Thomas Robinson
- Recruiting: Unranked Class (SG Ben McLemore #4 SG/#17 Overall; PG Naadir Thorpe #20 PG/#91 Overall)
- Outlook: This team could tumble down the rankings very quickly over the next week or so. If everyone returns, Kansas would have one of the most experienced and deepest teams in the nation. This would be a throwback team of highly touted upperclassmen that could easily hang another banner in Phog Allen Fieldhouse. Of course, reality should soon set in. While both Taylor and Robinson have already announced their returns, word is the Morris twins and Selby are all but decided on turning pro. Do I sense another shocking exit from the tourney?
- Big Question: Who makes perimeter shots for this team? While Reed and Morningstar weren't the greatest players, both were rock solid veterans who could conistently knock down shots from the outside. Taylor is more of a penetrator and Selby, assuming he doesn't make a huge mistake and turn pro, is a horrible shooter. Good luck with that Kansas! Can't wait to see you lose to Cornell in the 1st round!
- Last Year: 30-8 (14-4, 1st); Lost in Elite Eight
- Key Returnees: F Derrick Williams (19.5ppg, 8.3rpg); G Lamont Jones (9.7ppg); G Kyle Fogg (8.1ppg); F Solomon Hill (8.0ppg, 4.7rpg); G/F Kevin Parrom (7.6ppg)
- Key Losses: F Jamelle Horne (6.1ppg)
- Potential Early Entry Losses: F Derrick Williams
- Recruiting: #9 Class (PG Josiah Turner #2 PG/# 10 Overall; SG Nick Johnson #8 SG/#40 Overall; PF Sidiki Johnson #11 PF/#71 Overall)
- Outlook: As we found out this year, you always have a chance when you have the best player in the game. Assuming he returns, Arizona will have that, arguably, in Derrick Williams. Of course, Williams coming back to Arizona would be a bigger upset than VCU making the Final Four. Either way, Arizona returns a terrific backcourt and adds super prospect Josiah Turner to the mix.
- Big Question: Does Sean Miller know he's allowed to recruit big guys? Seriously, once Williams is gone, where is the rebounding going to come from? Solomon Hill is a nice player, but he isn't a real low post threat. Either he or crazy haired Kryl Natyazhko (or however you spell his freaking name) is going to have to become one or it could be a long year.
- Last Year: 28-8 (13-3, 2nd); Lost in NCAA 2nd Round
- Key Returnees: F Jordan Hamilton (18.6ppg, 7.7rpg, 2.5 3pg); F Tristan Thompson (13.1ppg, 7.8rpg, 2.4bpg); G Cory Joseph (10.4ppg); G J'Covan Brown (10.4ppg)
- Key Losses: F Gary Johnson (11.5ppg, 6.8rpg)
- Potential Early Entry Losses: F Jordan Hamilton, F Tristan Thompson, G Cory Joseph
- Recruiting: #8 Class (PG Myck Kabongo #5 PG/#24 Overall; SG Sheldon McClellan #13 SG/#52 Overall; PF Jonathan Holmes #13 PF/#83 Overall; SG Julien Lewis #24 SG/#96 Overall)
- Outlook: It appears, thus far, that everyone is coming back for another go. Gary Johnson's loss leaves them a bit thin up front, but they have one of the nations best backcourts. Last year, they struggled to score at times, but both Thompson and Joseph should be much more lethal in their second years. A guy to watch is top recruit Myck Kabongo. I really don't know how he dropped to #24 overall, because he's an incredibly dynamic player. I don't know how the playing time will get split up with all the guards, but they have to find a way to get this guy on the court.
- Big Question: Is Rick Barnes still the coach? Yes? He is? OK then, nothing to see here, move along!
- Last Year: 27-8 (12-6, 3rd); Lost in NCAA 2nd Round
- Key Returnees: F Kris Joseph (14.3ppg, 5.2rpg); G Scoop Jardine (12.5ppg, 5.9apg); G Brandon Triche (11.1ppg); G Dion Waiters (6.6ppg); C Fab Melo (2.3ppg)
- Key Losses: C Rick Jackson (13.1ppg, 10.3rpg, 2.5bpg)
- Potential Early Entry Losses: F Kris Joseph, C Fab Melo
- Recruiting: #6 class (C Rakeem Christmas #1 C/#12 Overall; PG Michael Carter-Williams #3 PG/#16 Overall)
- Outlook: Like Texas, it appears as if everyone is back on board. Kris Joseph and Scoop Jardine took huge strides last year in asserting themselves as stars. If they can improve their outside shot, this team will be extremely dangerous. The guy to watch is Dion Waiters. He started out last year as an extremely raw and unprepared freshman, but he definitely was showing big flashes by the end of conference play. I think this guy is going to have a huge year.
- Big Question: Can Fab Melo step up to the Rick Jackson role? They don't really need Melo to be as much of an offensive threat as Jackson, but he has to fill a large part of the defense and rebounding void left behind. He was a huge recruit last year and he definitely has the talent, but he must do a better job of staying out of foul trouble (and not sucking). Incoming freshman Rakeem Christmas is the top rated center in his class and is another great option to help man the low post. If BOTH Christmas and Melo are good...
- Last Year: 23-11 (9-7, 4th); Lost in NCAA 1st Round
- Key Returnees: G John Jenkins (19.5ppg, 3.1 3pg); F Jeffery Taylor (14.7ppg, 5.5rpg); C Festus Ezeli (13.0ppg, 6.3rpg, 2.6bpg); G Brad Tinsley (10.6ppg, 4.6apg); F Lance Goulbourne (6.9ppg, 7.3rpg)
- Key Losses: None
- Potential Early Entry Losses: G John Jenkins, F Jeffery Taylor, C Festus Ezeli
- Recruiting: #25 class (SG Dai-Jon Parker #15 SG/#57 Overall; PG Kedren Johnson #19 PG/#75 Overall)
- Outlook: Ezeli has already said he's returning and it looks like Taylor and Jenkins are both likely to come back as well. Assuming this holds true, we might actually have a major conference version of Butler this year! Seriously, all five starters will be upper classmen! Even their sixth man is a senior! WOW! I might have them ranked a bit higher than others, but I really think this team has the experience, balance, and depth to be a serious national contender. Also, John Jenkins can really, really shoot!
- Big Question: Can they win a freaking first round game already! Two years in a row guys! You're making the SEC look bad!
- Last Year: 25-10 (12-6, 3rd); Lost in NCAA 1st Round
- Key Returnees: G Kyle Kuric (10.8ppg, 2.1 3pg); G Peyton Siva (9.9ppg, 5.2apg); C Terrence Jennings (9.6ppg, 5.2rpg, 1.9bpg); Chris Smith (9.4ppg, 4.6rpg); F Rakeem Buckles (6.8ppg, 6.1rpg)
- Key Losses: G Preston Knowles (14.6ppg, 2.9 3pg)
- Recruiting: #7 Class (PF Chane Behanan #5 PF/#23 Overall; SF Wayne Blackshear #9 SF/#32 Overall; C Zach Price #6 C/# 72 Overall; SF Ryan Taylor #23 SF/#103 Overall)
- Outlook: You have no idea how much I hate putting Louisville on this list. I'm a Kentucky fan; I haaaaaaaaate Louisville. I also hate that nobody can pronounce Louisville right! It angers me! Regardless, I have to put aside my bias and hate and admit this team is going to be good. They proved a lot of people wrong last year and they return nearly everyone. I may be in the minority here, but I really don't think Preston Knowles is a huge loss. He took a lot of ill advised shots last year and this might be a case of addition by subtraction. Peyton Siva shook off a rough freshman year to assert himself as one of the top PG's in the Big East. Expect a big year out of him and expect this highly touted freshman class to contribute big time.
- Big Question: Is there really such a thing as too many Rick Pitino jokes? No, no there isn't.
As I said, I will continue to update this. In the future, when I don't use so much time and space talking about how crappy Butler played, I will expand this to a Top 25, but I want the draft situation to play out a bit first. Fear not, I have my research all ready to go when the time comes!
I would love to hear some response on this one as I know people get passionate about their teams. Let me know who you think should be ranked where and why they should be ranked there. After all, you better get used to hearing tons of college basketball talk because that's all there will be next year!
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