Picks for Thanksgiving week games 

November, 24, 2014
Nov 24
12:51
PM ET
Ryan Arcidiacono, Treveon GrahamUSA TODAY Sports, Getty ImagesRyan Arcidiacono and Treveon Graham square off in a highly anticipated Monday matchup.
With two weekends of the 2014-15 college basketball season in the books, opinions about teams and players are beginning to crystallize.

Kentucky is indeed as good as we thought they could be. Kansas, Syracuse and the defending champion UConn Huskies have some work to do. Gonzaga’s Kevin Pangos (23 assists without a turnover in four games) is back to his pre-injury form and Duke’s talented freshman group (Jahlil Okafor, Tyus Jones and Justise Winslow) looks downright frightening.

As we head into Feast Week, new narratives will be formed and some opinions are bound to change. Here’s a look at the games, teams and players I’ll have my eye on as the college basketball calendar creeps toward December.

For more, be sure to check out ESPN Insider's PickCenter.


Monday


7 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Villanova Wildcats vs. Virginia Commonwealth Rams

This is a battle of top-25 teams, and the winner should get Michigan on Tuesday at the Barclays Center. The question will be whether Ryan Arcidiacono can handle the Rams' relentless defensive pressure.

Syracuse could be in trouble 

November, 21, 2014
Nov 21
12:06
PM ET
Kaleb Joseph and Jim BoeheimRich Barnes/Getty ImagesSyracuse coach Jim Boeheim will be counting on consistency from freshman guard Kaleb Joseph.
NEW YORK -- It’s just three games into the season, and Jim Boeheim’s Syracuse Orange have a freshman point guard and a bevy of players thrust into new roles due to the departure of Tyler Ennis, C.J. Fair, Jerami Grant and Baye Moussa Keita.

The knee-jerk reaction following Thursday night’s loss against a California team picked to finish closer to the bottom of the Pac-12 than the top would be to say that the Cuse is NIT-bound this season.

It’s not off base.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Picks for the Tip-Off Marathon 

November, 17, 2014
Nov 17
11:58
AM ET
While the 2014-15 college basketball season technically tipped off this weekend, the season really gets underway with the ESPN Tip-Off Marathon. It starts Monday night with the in-state battle between Miami and Florida in Gainesville, and runs through Tuesday evening.

For the general public, the season might not begin until January when conference play starts. But for the wiseguys out in Vegas, early-season college basketball is the time to clean up on weak spreads. Below is the first of a weekly column I’m starting this year to give you my perspective on every game, with useful notes and nuggets.

Since you'd ask if we didn't, we'll include the the lines. But remember: These are the lines at the time of writing. For this, some of the Tuesday lines haven’t been released yet, but check back later for the Champions Classic doubleheader between Kentucky-Kansas and Duke-Michigan State.

And for other betting coverage at ESPN, check out the new ESPN Chalk section.

7 p.m. (ESPNU) -- Miami (FL) Hurricanes at Florida Gators

The Gators will be without talented sophomore big man Chris Walker for a second game, and this would have been an area that Billy Donovan could have taken advantage against a lackluster Hurricanes group. Donovan also will have a banged-up Dorian Finney-Smith. If Finney-Smith plays, it’ll be with a broken bone in his non-shooting hand.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Preseason Injury Watch for 2014-15 

November, 14, 2014
Nov 14
12:38
PM ET
DavisMichael Hickey/Getty ImagesIndiana's Devin Davis is out indefinitely after sustaining head injuries.
College hoops gets started Friday, and there are plenty of players who won’t be able to take the court for the beginning of the season. Indiana has four, but there are others who are injured, suspended, still waiting to get word from the NCAA or have already been deemed ineligible by the NCAA.

Here’s the most comprehensive preseason injury report you’ll find anywhere; updated intel from all but three of 340 programs. If I forgot anything or anyone, please email me at goodmanespn@gmail.com.

Note: Teams are listed alphabetically, by league. *** indicates still waiting on information.

ACC

Boston College: Darryl Hicks (ACL) is hopeful of returning for league play. Lonnie Jackson (calf) and Kyle Caudill (knee) are both out for a while.
Clemson: None
Duke: None
Florida State: None
Georgia Tech: None
Louisville: Shaqquan Aaron (NCAA) has not been cleared yet.
Miami: Ivan Cruz Uceda (NCAA) won’t be eligible until Jan. 13; Davon Reed (leg) is out indefinitely.
North Carolina: Luke Davis (stress fracture) out for four to six weeks.
NC State: None
Notre Dame: None
Pittsburgh: Cameron Wright (broken foot) is out for about three more weeks.
Syracuse: DaJuan Coleman (knee) is out indefinitely.
Virginia: London Perrantes and Evan Nolte have been suspended for the season opener against JMU.
Virginia Tech: None
Wake Forest: Daniel Green (recovering from ACL) is out indefinitely.

American

Central Florida: None
Cincinnati: None
UConn: Omar Calhoun (sprained knee) is day-to-day. Rodney Purvis (NCAA) will miss the season opener.
East Carolina: None
Houston: Mikhail McLean (broken foot) expected to return in late November; L.J. Rose (broken foot) expected to return in late December.
Memphis: None
SMU: Markus Kennedy (academics) will miss the first semester.
South Florida: Ruben Guerrero (groin) is questionable for start of season.
Temple: Jaylen Bond (ankle) is day-to-day. Jesse Morgan (transfer) and Devin Coleman (transfer) are both sitting until the second semester.
Tulane: None
Tulsa: None


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

My picks for 2014-15 All-American teams 

November, 10, 2014
Nov 10
10:00
AM ET
Kaminsky, Paige, NiangGetty ImagesFrank Kaminsky, Marcus Paige and Georges Niang could all land on All-America teams.
Usually it’s not nearly this difficult to come up with picks for preseason All-America teams and national player of the year. Maybe it’s because nearly all the top players in the country from a season ago either graduated (i.e., Doug McDermott, Shabazz Napier and Russ Smith) or left early for the NBA draft (i.e., Jabari Parker, Nik Stauskas and Nick Johnson).

The incoming freshman class didn’t come in with the same juice as the Class of 2013, which boasted Parker, Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle.

That makes for no shortage of uncertainty when it comes to trying to predict a 2014-15 All-America squad. But that's not going to stop me. Here are my first-, second- and third-team All-Americans, along with a mid-major All-America squad. I'll start things off with my picks for player, freshman and coach of the year

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Best, worst nonconference schedules 

November, 7, 2014
Nov 7
11:36
AM ET
Kevin Ollie and Billy DonovanBob Donnan/USA TODAY SportsKevin Ollie and Billy Donovan have their teams facing challenging out of conference competition.
A year ago, Kansas was the undisputed King of the nonconference slate -- at least when it came to any contending team. The Jayhawks have once again put together another challenging nonleague schedule, but it’s not nearly what it was a year ago.

The directive came from outgoing SEC commissioner Mike Slive for his programs to play people prior to SEC play, and two heeded his advice.

Remember, it’s not just who you play, but also where you play them. A road win against a top-25 team is every bit as meaningful as a home victory over a top-5 team.

I went through every single nonconference schedule, basically looking for any team of note and came up with the best and worst. I’ll also give out some hardware, including the All-Cupcake Award.




Top nonleague slates


1. Florida Gators

Billy Donovan and the Gators did a nice job putting together the most difficult schedule among the top 50 teams.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Rick Barnes, Frank Kaminsky & Jim BoeheimGetty ImagesThis could be a good season for Rick Barnes and Frank Kaminsky -- but maybe not for Jim Boeheim.
With the season less than two weeks away, it’s time to unveil my season predictions. A year ago, I called UConn clipping the nets in April, Wichita State going undefeated through the regular season and Doug McDermott winning National Player of the Year honors.

Actually, I didn’t predict any of those -- but that won't stop me from making some bold predictions for the 2014-15 campaign:

1. The Streak will finally end in Lawrence.

Bill Self and the Kansas Jayhawks have won the Big 12 regular-season title for the past 10 seasons, but this time around it’ll be the Texas Longhorns who claim the league crown.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Michigan will surprise in Big Ten 

October, 29, 2014
Oct 29
9:20
AM ET
Derrick Walton Jr., Jonathan HolmesAP Photo/Morry GashDerrick Walton knocked down 41 percent of his 3-point attempts last season.
John Beilein returns just four players with legitimate college basketball experience. The Michigan Wolverines lost their star, Nik Stauskas; his top running mate, Glenn Robinson III; along with every big man most fans are even aware of: Jordan Morgan, Mitch McGary and Jon Horford.

At first glance, you'd think the 2014-15 season will be a major rebuilding year in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I mean, who would ever anticipate that Beilein could lose three NBA picks in one year and remain competitive nationally? He's built this program since his arrival, but that's a huge hit for anybody.

However, instead of a major drop-off, I believe the Wolverines can become Wisconsin’s top threat for the Big Ten title and a contender to

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Nation's 10 most underrated teams 

October, 27, 2014
Oct 27
9:00
AM ET
Bobby PortisAP Photo/Gareth PattersonBobby Portis and Arkansas could be one of the SEC's best teams this season.
The USA Today coaches poll was released last week, and numerous publications have already put out their preseason top 25 for the 2014-15 campaign.

Personally, I'd go with Colorado and Notre Dame as my picks for underrated teams heading into the season. Tad Boyle is a heck of a coach, and though he lost Spencer Dinwiddie early to the NBA, he has more than enough talent back in the fold -- and he didn't have an injured Dinwiddie for the second part of the past season, anyway. The Irish were a mess a season ago, but it was their initial season in the ACC, and they went through plenty of adversity with the loss of standout guard Jerian Grant in December. Grant and Pat Connaughton are back, and look for Demetrius Jackson and Zach Auguste to make significant jumps.

But that's enough of my thoughts on the most underrated teams in college hoops this season. My latest "coaches poll" takes into account college coaches' opinions on which teams are being overlooked.

Note: All of these coaches were polled and quoted anonymously.

1. Arkansas Razorbacks: They didn’t lose much from a team that nearly made the NCAA tournament a season ago. They return one of the best big men in the country in sophomore Bobby Portis, as well as leading scorer Rashad Madden and key contributor Michael Qualls.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

Caris LeVertRobin Alam/Icon SMICaris LeVert likely will take over the role as Michigan's go-to scorer this season.
CHICAGO -- It’s no secret that it’s Wisconsin and then everyone else in the Big Ten this season.

Bo Ryan returns everyone except for Ben Brust from a team that was an Aaron Harrison shot away from playing UConn in the national title contest. The Badgers are the overwhelming favorite in the league, but after that, it’s anyone’s guess.

Michigan State has far more questions than answers after Tom Izzo watched Gary Harris, Adreian Payne and Keith Appling all depart East Lansing.

Ohio State has some nice pieces, but Thad Matta lacks a superstar unless talented freshman guard D’Angelo Russell can quickly acclimate himself to the college game.

The Spartans and Buckeyes were chosen No. 2 and No. 3 in the preseason poll released last week, but there isn’t much disparity between Izzo’s group and the one that some are picking to finish 10th in the league.

“The league is just OK,” one league coach admitted to me. “It’s not what it has been, but you have to look at what we lost. We’re much younger.”

In reality, the league lost a half-dozen players early to the NBA, and Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana were most affected. Add in the departure of guys like Roy Devyn Marble (Iowa) and Aaron Craft (Ohio State) and you have a league that won’t be what it’s been over the past few years.

This isn’t meant to be a shot at the Big Ten. In fact, I think the league will be extremely competitive and interesting this season. However, I’m just not sold that there’s another powerhouse beyond Wisconsin.

I think there are 10 teams with a legit shot of getting to the NCAA tournament, and I’d still be shocked if the league doesn’t wind up with at least a half-dozen participants in the NCAA tournament. However, I’m not quite sure that anyone other than the Badgers has a chance to play in April.

Here’s how I'd rank the league right now, but with the focus on the biggest worry for each squad:

1. Wisconsin Badgers

I’m going with the old adage of “the only ones who will beat Wisconsin are the Badgers themselves.” Here’s what I mean by that: Frank Kaminsky and Sam Dekker need to remain focused on the team rather than all the NBA talk. If they do that, this team can be special.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

UNC big men key to deep tourney run 

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
3:21
PM ET
Kennedy Meeks, Brice Johnson Grant Halverson/Getty ImagesKennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson both got their bodies into better game shape this offseason.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Kennedy Meeks and Brice Johnson are quick to admit they were the brunt of the majority of Roy Williams’ verbal lashings a year ago.

“We didn’t run the court well enough,” they both said.

Williams isn’t one of those guys who welcomes change. He is traditional in his approach, and that was clear two seasons ago when he refused to go the small-ball route late in the season when it became painfully obvious that nothing else would work.

But the preference is to play with true big men, and that’s why the emergence -- and consistency -- of both Meeks and Johnson is critical to the Tar Heels' success in 2014-15.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

This year's secret scrimmages

October, 16, 2014
Oct 16
11:37
AM ET
FloridaNelson Chenault/USA TODAY SportsKasey Hill, Michael Frazier II and Florida will take on VCU in a secret scrimmage.
Secret scrimmages.

I still can’t figure out why the NCAA forces teams to be so secretive about these preseason controlled matchups in which statistics aren’t supposed to be revealed and media aren’t allowed to be present.

You aren’t supposed to know about these, so please don’t get me in trouble and say where you found out.

But they begin soon, and we’ve come up with the most comprehensive list you’ll find anywhere.

Many of the elite teams don’t (or can’t) have secret scrimmages because the administration doesn’t want to give up the money for a home exhibition with fans in attendance. But there are some -- such as Arizona -- that find a way to schedule a secret scrimmage.

The headliner scrimmage this year is VCU at Florida in a battle of Top 25 teams (and a battle of Billy Donovan and his former assistant Shaka Smart). Nov. 1 is loaded with matchups as two of the best in the West square off when Stanford travels to San Diego State. New Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski will get his feet wet with a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia, and a battle with a top-20 Virginia team.

Then there’s the annual Gonzaga-Texas tilt. It happens every year, and this time it’s in Phoenix on Nov. 8.

Thursday, Oct. 23

North Dakota State at MSU-Moorhead

Friday, Oct. 24

Davidson at Texas
Clayton State at Kennesaw State

Saturday, Oct. 25

Ohio State at West Virginia
Stephen F. Austin at Houston
Arizona State at San Francisco
Grand Canyon at Santa Clara
Charleston Southern at East Carolina
Florida Atlantic at North Florida
USC Upstate vs. Chattanooga at North Georgia
Citadel at Stetson
Bethune-Cookman at Coastal Carolina in Savannah
Pacific at UC Davis
UT Pan American at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi
Texas A&M-Kingsville at UT San Antonio
Western Illinois at Chicago State

Sunday, Oct. 26

Nebraska at Kansas State in Omaha
Iowa at Creighton
Southern Mississippi vs. Louisiana-Lafayette in New Orleans
James Madison vs. Navy
Presbyterian at Western Carolina

Monday, Oct. 27

Winston Salem State at NC Central

Wednesday, Oct. 29

Saint Joseph’s at Seton Hall

Thursday, Oct. 30

UT Arlington at Texas A&M
New Haven at Central Connecticut

Friday, Oct. 31

LIU at Rider
UNC Greensboro at Coastal Carolina
Sioux Falls at North Dakota

Saturday, Nov. 1

VCU at Florida
Stanford at San Diego State
Providence at Harvard
DePaul at Wisconsin
Marquette at Virginia
Cleveland State at Xavier
TCU at Wichita State
Louisiana Tech vs. Oklahoma State in Dallas
Clemson at Charlotte
Georgia Tech vs. Alabama in Birmingham
Michigan at Bowling Green
NC State vs. Georgia in Charlotte
Wake Forest at Charleston
Baylor vs. SMU at TBD
Miami at South Florida
Denver at Colorado
Penn State at Temple
Wyoming at Utah
Portland at Washington
Illinois State at Northwestern
LSU at Northwestern State
Georgetown at George Mason
Washington State at Nevada
Drexel at George Washington
Duquesne at Towson
St. Francis (N.Y.) at Fordham
Kent State at St. Bonaventure
Hofstra at Saint. Joseph’s
Miami (Ohio) at Murray State
Eastern Kentucky at Marshall
Rice at Sam Houston State
Stephen F. Austin at Louisiana-Monroe
Radford at Ohio
UC Irvine at USC
Iona at Albany
Hartford at Brown
Quinnipiac at New Hampshire
Yale at Stony Brook
Florida Gulf Coast at Florida Southern
Indiana State vs. Central Michigan in Indianapolis
Jacksonville at Charleston Southern
Lipscomb vs. Troy in Birmingham
North Florida at Citadel
Presbyterian at USC Upstate
Tennessee Tech at Western Kentucky
Eastern Washington at Colorado State
Ball State at IPFW
Northern Colorado vs. Utah Valley at Western Wyoming JC
Portland State vs. Seattle in Portland
Chicago State at Loyola (Ill.)
Elon at Campbell
Bradley at Milwaukee
Drake at South Dakota
Valparaiso vs. Buffalo at Oberlin College in Ohio
Toledo at Wright State
Long Beach State at Arizona State
UC Riverside at San Diego
Fresno at UC Santa Barbara
Air Force at Cal State Northridge
UNC Asheville at Furman
Missouri State vs. Nebraska-Omaha in Kansas City
UNC Wilmington at Winthrop
Fairfield at Boston University
Tennessee-Martin at Arkansas Little Rock
Bucknell at Youngstown State
Pepperdine at Cal Poly
Marist at Cornell
Lehigh at Princeton
South Alabama at New Orleans
Texas State vs. Texas A&M-Corpus Christi in San Antonio
Tennessee State at Samford
Lafayette at Columbia
Grambling at McNeese State
Prairie View at Lamar
Army at Siena
Holy Cross at UMass-Lowell
Dartmouth at Wagner
UMKC at SIU-Edwardsville
St. Peter’s at NJIT
Liberty at VMI
Delaware at UMBC
NC A&T at High Point
Bethune-Cookman at Florida International
Mount St. Mary’s at Randolph-Macon
Lincoln Memorial at Morehead State
Carleton at Colgate

Sunday, Nov. 2

Saint Mary’s at Arizona
Minnesota at Iowa State
South Carolina at Virginia Tech
Dayton vs. Illinois in Indianapolis
Boston College at Rutgers
Mississippi State at UAB
Ole Miss at Middle Tennessee State
Rhode Island at Manhattan
Auburn at Tulane
New Mexico State at Tulsa
Wofford at Belmont
Northern Illinois at UIC
Loyola (Md.) at Penn
Cal State Fullerton vs. Northern Arizona in Phoenix
Gardner-Webb at Appalachian State
William & Mary vs. Navy
Mercer at Georgia Southern
LIU Post at Monmouth
Eastern Illinois at Missouri-St. Louis
Young Harris at Western Carolina

Monday, Nov. 3

Nicholls State at Southern

Thursday, Nov. 6

Indiana (Pa.) at Florida Gulf Coast

Friday, Nov. 7

La Salle at Princeton
Akron at Youngstown State
Northern Kentucky at Ball State
Georgia Southwestern at Kennesaw State
Cal Baptist at Montana State

Saturday, Nov. 8

Gonzaga vs. Texas in Phoenix
Colorado at SMU
UNLV at UCLA
Saint Louis at Memphis
Virginia at Georgetown
Baylor vs. Louisiana Tech in Tyler, Texas
Rhode Island at Harvard
UMass vs. American in Philadelphia
Drexel at Temple
Virginia Tech at East Tennessee State
Belmont vs. Mercer
N.C. Central at Radford
Wofford at Liberty
Hofstra at Penn State
Iona at St. Francis (N.Y.)
Penn at Bucknell
Old Dominion vs. Norfolk State
Maryland-Eastern Shore at Richmond
Loyola-Chicago vs. Green Bay in Milwaukee
Columbia at LIU
Cornell at NJIT
Northeastern at Bryant
Brown vs. Colgate in Albany
FDU at Fordham
Tennessee State at Chattanooga
Robert Morris at Kent State
Albany at Marist
Hartford vs. Lafayette at Army
Central Connecticut at Stony Brook
UNC Greensboro at Winthrop
Cal State Bakersfield at Pepperdine
Niagara vs. Dartmouth
Florida International at Jacksonville
Boston University at Yale
Long Beach State at San Diego
Wagner at Lehigh
Northwestern State at UT Arlington
VMI at St. Francis (Pa.)
San Francisco at UC Davis
Louisiana-Monroe vs. Lamar in Alexandria
Sacred Heart at St. Peter’s
Minnesota-Moorhead at North Dakota
Metro State at Wyoming
Arkansas Little Rock vs. Abilene Christian in Rockwall, Texas
Merrimack at New Hampshire
Stephenson College at Howard

Sunday, Nov. 9

Morgan State at Delaware
Hampton at William & Mary
New Orleans at Southern

Tuesday, Nov. 11

Salisbury at Maryland-Eastern Shore

Smart, VCU back and better than ever 

October, 15, 2014
Oct 15
2:41
PM ET
Shaka Smart Mike Lawrie/Getty ImagesShaka Smart has likely his deepest team since taking over as VCU head coach in 2009.
RICHMOND, Va. -- Shaka Smart has inherited talent (i.e., Larry Sanders) and also brought plenty to VCU since taking over in 2009. However, there’s a key difference between the guys he brought in thus far and the players he is able to recruit nowadays.

Treveon Graham was a two-star kid who chose VCU over Cleveland State, Briante Weber had primarily mid-major schools involved in his recruitment, and former guard Rob Brandenberg picked the Rams over Wright State and Valparaiso.

Now Smart is able to fight -- and sometimes even beat -- heavyweights.

Sure, Smart has gotten a few top 100 players in the past. Melvin Johnson was a highly touted kid in the Class of 2012 who initially signed with Miami (Fla.). Jordan Burgess was also a fringe ranked kid in the same class.

But Smart has reeled in more top 100 kids in the current freshman class than he had his entire time at VCU, and these guys are the real deal.

Terry Larrier looks the part. Sure, he still has a ways to go, but he’s long, athletic and skilled. Every recruiting analyst I can think of ranked Larrier among the top 50 players in the country. VCU had to fight UConn and Florida for him.

Michael Gilmore has the length and skill. He is 6-foot-9 and can step out and shoot from the perimeter. Again, it might take time for the 205-pound Gilmore to physically develop, but he could become a first-team all-league performer in the A-10. Gilmore was pursued by the likes of Kansas State and Georgia Tech.

The same can be said for the third frontcourt member of VCU’s heralded recruiting class: Justin Tillman. He may look a bit undersized at 6-6 and change, but he is long and bouncy and plays with a motor. Xavier was on Tillman, who somehow was passed over by many of the big boys.

These guys are hardly a fluke. Smart is still well-aware that he can’t beat the upper-tier schools in the recruiting wars, but he admits the program has probably moved up a few rungs within the tier system that defines college hoops recruiting.

“We probably went from a six to a four,” he said.

Terry Larrier
AP Photo/Gregory PayanVCU's Terry Larrier, ESPN's No. 43 overall recruit in the Class of 2014, should contribute immediately.
Recruiting rankings are an inexact science, and so too is evaluating freshmen in October practices. However, one thing is clear when comparing these young guys (also including jet-quick freshman point guard Jonathan Williams) to the vets.

“They are really good,” Graham said of the freshmen. “We lost Juvonte [Reddic] and Rob Brandenberg, and we have more talent.”

“This seems like a ton of talent,” said one ex-ACC assistant coach in attendance at practice. “This is like, 'wow.'”

One of the key reasons why VCU has attracted a higher-level recruit is because of the Final Four run in 2011. Another is the presence of Smart.

Both Johnson and Kenny Williams, a top-100 player in the Class of 2015 who chose the Rams over North Carolina, also singled out the young coaching staff as a key component.

“I really connected with Coach Morrell,” Williams said of 31-year-old assistant Mike Morrell. “The staff is young, and I can relate to them.”

Smart is just 37. Fellow assistant Jeremy Ballard is 33. David Cason is the elder statesman of the staff, and he’s in his early 40s.

It’s also the up-tempo, pressing style of play that has caught the eye of recruits. Some teams say they play fast; VCU actually does it.

“You have a lot of leeway on the offensive end,” Graham said. “Everyone wants to play in the 70s and get a lot of shots.”

“Everyone in recruiting says they play the way we play,” Smart added. “We take pride in the fact that this is what we’re going to do. Havoc. It’s our word for it. We have not wavered.”


To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

10 observations on UMass 

October, 14, 2014
Oct 14
12:21
PM ET
Cady LalanneJeremy Brevard/USA TODAY SportsCan senior Cady Lalanne step into a leadership position for the Minutemen this season?
AMHERST, Mass. -- Derek Kellogg finally got UMass back.

It had been 16 years since the program that John Calipari built had been to the NCAA tournament. The Calipari expectations were largely responsible for the brief tenures of three coaches -- Bruiser Flint, Steve Lappas and Travis Ford (who somehow got a better job).

Then came in the area’s favorite son, Kellogg, to try to get this once-proud program back on the national map. He did it with a team that ranked in the top 25 for much of the season, and also one that finally went dancing.

Now the question becomes whether he can sustain it.

I took in practice last week in Amherst and came away with the following observations about this year’s UMass Minutemen:

1. Derek Kellogg will miss Chaz Williams’ toughness and ability to make a play at virtually any point in the game, but Williams wasn’t much of a leader.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

T.J. McConnellCasey Sapio/USA TODAY SportsSean Miller, right, will count on nightly production from sure-handed point guard T.J. McConnell.
There’s no debate when it comes to determining the deepest team in the country this season. Not when Kentucky sophomore Marcus Lee, a potential first-round pick, is likely the team’s sixth frontcourt player on the depth chart.

However, it gets difficult when trying to determine the best starting unit in the country for the 2014-15 campaign.

The problem is coming up with starting lineups for some of the teams. For instance, Kentucky could go with freshman Tyler Ulis at the point and play both Harrison twins -- Andrew and Aaron -- on the wing. John Calipari might also choose to go with two separate platoon units and try and balance them.

Likewise, Duke could go with senior Quinn Cook starting alongside freshman Tyus Jones in the backcourt, or Mike Krzyzewski could bring Cook off the bench and use a more traditional lineup that would include three freshmen: Jones, Justise Winslow and Jahlil Okafor, along with Rasheed Sulaimon and Amile Jefferson. Don’t be shocked to see another frosh, Grayson Allen, crack the starting lineup.

So I consulted several of my colleagues and some college coaches, here are the projected lineups for what we've deemed to be the nation's top five starting units entering the 2014-15 season. One thing was clear: This was not an easy task.


1. Arizona Wildcats

We went with the Wildcats in the top spot due to the edge in experience and also in defense.

To continue reading this article you must be an Insider

SPONSORED HEADLINES