Calipari/SelfGetty ImagesThis will be a key time of year for many coaches, including John Calipari and Bill Self.
Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg got together to discuss what college coaches go through with their program and players during winter break. They specifically looked at what John Calipari, Bill Self and Roy Williams -- always among college basketball's most scrutinized coaches -- will be doing with their respective teams in the coming weeks.

Greenberg: I think this is the most difficult time of the year for a team, especially when you have young players. If you’re playing over Thanksgiving, it’s usually in a pretty good place, so it’s a good experience. But the reality is, when the campus empties up at the end of a semester, it’s basically you and your team for six weeks. It’s really hard on your players -- it’s a balancing act. It’s an important time to develop your team, but it’s also team-building time.

Inside Louisville's stifling defense 

December, 8, 2014
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Rick PitinoAP Photo/Ricardo ArduengoLouisville coach Rick Pitino has consistently had one of the nation's best defenses.
Over the past four seasons, no team has played defense at a high level as consistently as Louisville. Since 2011, the Cardinals have never ended a season lower than fourth in the nation in defensive efficiency (according to kenpom.com), and the Cardinals are on that pace once again this year.

When you think of Rick Pitino’s defensive philosophy, from his first coaching job at Boston University to now at Louisville, it has been built on panicking opponents with pressure and harassment in multiple full-court and half-court defenses. But his tactics have evolved with time and experience.

One constant through the years for Pitino, regardless of defensive scheme, is maniacal ball pressure.

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Okafor/KaminskyGetty ImagesJahlil Okafor and Frank Kaminsky, who square off on Wednesday, are both All-American candidates.
With Wednesday’s highly anticipated matchup between the Duke Blue Devils and Wisconsin Badgers (9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) fast approaching, ESPN Insiders and former coaches Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg weigh in on what to watch for, keys for both teams and offer their score predictions.


How Duke beats Wisconsin

Fraschilla: You’re attacking a team that plays great team defense. The Badgers are always in the right spot, and will play great team defense on Wednesday. If there is a soft spot, so far, it’s Wisconsin’s defensive protection of the rim. If I’m Mike Krzyzewski, I’m thinking of playing this game inside-out from the start. I’m going inside to Jahlil Okafor, trying to attack Wisconsin’s guards off the dribble, get into the lane and try to force them to defend in the paint.

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Should Kansas be worried? 

November, 21, 2014
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Perry Ellis and Wayne Selden, Jr.USA TODAY SportsPerry Ellis and Wayne Selden both struggled against Kentucky this week in the Champions Classic.
Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg got together to discuss the biggest topics in college basketball. This week, they look closer at Kansas following its 72-40 loss Tuesday to Kentucky in the Champions Classic.

Seth Greenberg: It’s a process. I’ve said this before: Kansas is not close to where it's going to be. The Jayhawks have a young and developing point guard situation with Devonte Graham and Frank Mason. They’ve gotten inconsistent play from two of their freshmen, but it’s just their second game on this stage. Kelly Oubre is learning how to be part of a basketball program, how to be a player at a high level where you must understand the commitment and how hard you have to play and everything that surrounds it. Cliff Alexander will be a terrific player. But they are both a work in progress.

The young players must buy in and understand how hard they need to work on a daily basis, and Bill Self is a master teacher. But it’s not going to happen overnight, that’s the reality of it.

Wayne Selden and Perry Ellis need to play and be difference-makers. Ellis has to be a guy who understands how to lead, even though he’s quiet. Selden needs to play better than he did Tuesday night. If they don’t play well, then Kansas is going to be in trouble. They need to set the tone to teach these young guys what it takes.

Frank Mason
Peter G. Aiken/Getty ImagesKansas is hoping for more consistency from point guard Frank Mason.
Fran Fraschilla: In a strange way, an embarrassing loss like this is exactly what Bill Self needs to teach a young team what it’s going to take to be as good as some of these recent Kansas teams have been.

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Stanley JohnsonChris Coduto/Icon SportswireIs Arizona freshman Stanley Johnson ready to be his team's featured scorer from Day 1?
Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg like to get together to discuss the biggest topics in college basketball. This week, they provide their biggest concerns for the four most prominent preseason title favorites -- Arizona, Duke, Kentucky and Wisconsin.

Which national title contender is the most vulnerable?

Fran Fraschilla: I’m going with Arizona. As talented as Sean Miller’s team is -- and the Wildcats certainly have their share of high school All-Americans -- my concern is this: Who is going to be the go-to scorer on this team? It actually could be freshman Stanley Johnson, but I’m not so sure he’s ready to take that role on.

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GoodwinJamie Rhodes/USA TODAY SportsShaq Goodwin and Memphis could provide problems for UConn and SMU at the top of the AAC.
This week, we decided to put Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg together to discuss and debate the dark-horse teams to look for across every major conference.

American

Seth Greenberg: You gotta go with Memphis. The Tigers have a great home court and great sense of ownership and passion with their fans. Kedren Johnson, who will be eligible to play, gives them an experienced point guard. Shaq Goodwin and Austin Nichols are two of the toughest frontcourt matchups in the conference. Nick King also gives them a lockdown defender on the wing.

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Jahlil Okafor and Marcus PaigeIcon SportswireDuke's Jahlil Okafor and North Carolina's Marcus Paige are both expected to thrive this season.
Fran Fraschilla and Seth Greenberg got together to discuss the biggest topics in college basketball. This week, they provide their Player of the Year selections as well as dark-horse picks.

Player of the Year

Fran Fraschilla: It’s not often that you say this, but I’m going with a freshman in Jahlil Okafor. I just think his combination of size, athleticism and what he has to do for Duke to be good means he’s going to have an excellent opportunity to be a dominant player in college basketball. Because he’s been out of sight, out of mind by most fans, it might be controversial, but not to most fans who have seen this young man play.

I think it’s unfair to compare him to anybody currently playing. He’s just a 6-foot-11 kid with terrific athleticism for his size, outstanding fundamentals and he’s not making any adjustment to his position. He’s always been a low-post player and is very comfortable and effective.

Seth Greenberg: I love Okafor, but I’m hesitant to make any freshman -- even one as talented as him -- the Player of the Year. I do agree with Fran that he has the feet, hands, ability to play out of a double-team and is an alert defender. He’s everything that you’re looking for in an elite player. But Okafor is going to be playing potentially with a freshman point guard, so what impact does that have on the team? The Blue Devils will have to play through Okafor, and it’s been rare recently that Duke has played through a post player. However, in terms of talent, as Fran mentioned, it’s impossible to argue.

My guy is someone who last season separated himself: Marcus Paige.

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Ten biggest takeaways from Kansas 

October, 23, 2014
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Perry EllisDenny Medley/USA TODAY SportsKansas forward Perry Ellis is one of the most complete players in college basketball this season.
Despite losing Joel Embiid and Andrew Wiggins, Kansas will once again be in the discussion for a national title. The Jayhawks have a championship pedigree and are led by Bill Self, one of the best coaches in college basketball. They also added another talented recruiting class to a strong, veteran core.

I spent time this week in Lawrence, Kansas, to check out the Jayhawks in person. After speaking with Self and watching Kansas practice, here are my biggest takeaways.

1. Perry Ellis is a unique talent

The junior forward really understands how to play. He has great footwork and seals in the high-low offense as well as any player in the country. Ellis shoots the ball to 17 feet comfortably, and moves and reads the defense on the block to create angles. Though he’s not the vocal leader you expect at this point of his college career, he simply “does his job."

2. Kansas is a legitimate title contender

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Up close with Texas hoops 

October, 16, 2014
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TexasHoward Smith/USA TODAY SportsTexas returns essentially its entire rotation from a team that finished 24-11 last season.
The Texas Longhorns struggled through a 2012-2013 season that saw them miss their first NCAA tournament under coach Rick Barnes since he took over in 1998. Poor team chemistry led to the exodus of his four leading scorers to professional basketball and the transfer route. Unexpectedly, last season was a turnaround year for Barnes and his young as they finished 24-11 and made their 15th NCAA appearance in 16 seasons. Things are back to normal in Austin. Texas has every key player returning to go along with a very strong freshman class, and optimism is high. After spending time watching the consensus top-15 team practice last week, here are my biggest takeaways. 1. Rick Barnes is rejuvenated

Rick Barnes and Javan Felix
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesTexas coach Rick Barnes has a team built for a long March postseason run.
With a roster constructed of two former McDonald’s All Americans -- Cameron Ridley and Myles Turner -- and a bunch of solid top-100 high school recruits, the Longhorns are back to being the type of deep, tough, blue-collar team that defined them when they were more successful. While Barnes was never bothered by the talk of being on the hot seat after the one truly down year, he was bothered by the 2012-2013 team’s selfishness and “me first” attitude and believed it was a reflection on him. Anyone who has coached a team like that dreads stepping onto the practice floor every day. But it was completely different for Barnes a year ago and it is carrying over to this season.


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Kentucky confirms loaded roster 

October, 13, 2014
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Andrew Harrison, Aaron HarrisonJamie Squire/Getty ImagesSophomore guards Andrew and Aaron Harrison impressed NBA scouts at last week's draft combine.
Kentucky's NBA draft combine by all accounts was a tremendous success. It was a win-win for the program, coaches, players and pro evaluators in attendance.

Ninety scouts and 30 NBA teams got an opportunity to get a baseline look at nine prospects ranked in the top 50 in various mock drafts. The Kentucky staff provided a booklet for all personnel with a player profile that included analytic frame analysis (height with and without shoes, standing reach, hand size, wing span and body fat), strength, functional movement and the same speed and agility testing that the NBA uses in its combine. The Wildcats even purchased the same equipment to ensure the testing was not compromised.

Scouts were able to make their evaluations against similar athletes, and it’s rare for them to see so many big bodies compete in one venue. They not only got a chance to watch one practice, but three -- which is not the norm. The players were in a no-lose situation in that if they played well, they made a great first impression. If they struggled, they will have the remainder of the season to show what they can do and display improvement that teams are looking for when evaluating young prospects.

After watching in person last Friday, here are my individual player evaluations and observations from the combine.

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Top matchup nightmares for 2014-15 

October, 2, 2014
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Delon WrightAP Photo/Ben MargotUtah guard Delon Wright 15.5 points, 6.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game last season.
Welcome to the preseason edition of the 2014-15 college basketball “matchup nightmares” series. A matchup nightmare is not just a talented scorer or rebounder, but, more importantly, a player against whom it is extremely difficult to construct a game plan to stop. He does things that you cannot control as an opposing coach. His versatility makes it tough to decide what exactly you want to give and what you want to take away.

This initial list will be void of incoming freshmen, as you must earn it by getting it done in college. Instead, it’ll be comprised of players who’ve positioned themselves due to exceptional seasons last year and/or strong summer development. You’ll also notice a few under-the-radar guys from non-Power 5 conferences.

Here’s my list of the biggest matchup nightmares in college basketball today.


Delon Wright | G | Utah Utes

Wright is one of the most unique, durable and complete players in college basketball, as he impacts the game every time down the floor on both sides of the ball. He does things for which no opposing game plan can account.

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Kenneth FariedNathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty ImagesUsing FIBA goaltending rules would benefit a guy like Kenneth Faried.
After watching the FIBA Basketball World Cup this past month and watching every game that Team USA played, I came away thinking that there are some FIBA rules I would love to see adopted by college basketball.

While college basketball still is popular, there are ways it can be improved and made to be even more exciting -- not just for the players but for the fans, as well. Here are some FIBA rules that I hope would garner serious consideration from college basketball’s rules makers.


The FIBA timeout rule

In FIBA play, the players cannot call a timeout. A timeout can be called only by the coach at the scorer’s table and only when the ball is dead. This creates some interesting scenarios that do not manifest themselves in a college basketball game.

In FIBA basketball, players who are stuck in a double-team situation or dive on the floor for a loose ball, unlike college basketball, cannot be bailed out by calling timeout.

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Why St. John's can win the Big East 

September, 18, 2014
Sep 18
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Steve LavinNate Shron/Getty ImagesSt. John's coach Steve Lavin will count on nightly production from point guard D'Angelo Harrison.
When Steve Lavin took over as head coach of St. John's in 2010, he inherited a physically and mentally mature team. He added much-needed energy and infectious enthusiasm, enough that the Red Storm became relevant again in the Big East. That initial season, the program had six wins against ranked opponents -- Duke, Pittsburgh, Notre Dame, Connecticut, Georgetown and Villanova -- and reached the NCAA tournament for the first time in nine years.

Since then, however, it’s been a struggle.

Lavin battled cancer and dealt with the passing of his best friend and father, Cap. During those three years, he’s also had to manage St. John’s roster and develop his own senior class. The results might not be exactly what fans hoped for -- the Red Storm haven’t been a top-25 team since that 2010-11 season -- but make no mistake about it, they are improving.

And thanks to a senior class with more than 100 combined games of experience, I see this season’s team breaking through, competing for a Big East title and reaching the NCAA tournament.

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Future Power Rankings snubs, surprises 

September, 10, 2014
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videoESPN’s College Basketball Future Power Rankings took into consideration coaching, current talent, program power and the stability of programs. While those clearly make sense when evaluating a school's outlook in the coming seasons, I would have also liked to see facilities, conference reach, fan ownership and institutional commitment play into the equation. One interesting result of the rankings was that you clearly see a bright future for the ACC, as six different teams were listed.

But I’m shocked to see Kansas as the lone Big 12 program. Iowa State, thanks to the leadership of Fred Hoiberg, must be included. The Big Ten, which most experts believe is the top conference in America, came in second overall with four teams (Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Wisconsin).


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Gonzaga could be a title contender 

September, 4, 2014
Sep 4
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Mark FewCary Edmondson/USA TODAY SportsGonzaga coach Mark Few has arguably the most talented team in program history.
Gonzaga has a rich basketball tradition, appearing in 17 consecutive West Coast Conference finals and 17 NCAA tournaments over the past 21 years. Since 2004, the Bulldogs have earned one No. 1 seed, one No. 2 seed and two No. 3 seeds in the Big Dance. The program also has produced five first- or second-team All-Americans and a player of the year in Adam Morrison.

Much of this success has come on the back of Mark Few, the nation’s winningest active head coach (80.1 percent). But with all that he’s accomplished through 15 seasons at the helm, I believe the best is yet to come.

Here’s at look at why the 2014-15 Bulldogs may be the top team in school history -- one with a shot to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.


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