I hosted a radio show last night during the Super Bowl. We called it, Inside College Hoops on ESPN Radio. We had a great guest list including Billy Packer, Eric Gordon, Todd Licklighter, Jeff Caple, Andy Katz, Joe Lunardi, Andy Glockner, Jim Laranaga and many others. He are some things I picked up from all of my guests:
Billy Packer, CBS Sports
Billy said that if Memphis' continues to shoot the ball at a 58 percent clip from the free-throw line, the Tigers will not win the NCAA Tournament. Packer, who is in his 33rd year of calling the Final Four, said that you have to remember that in six consecutive games, free throws can decide half of the games. Packer also said that he believes that Coach K has really benefited from coaching Team USA. Packer said that from asking Kobe Bryant about what he eats to picking up some zone tips from Jim Boeheim, Duke is the better for the immense amount of off-season time Duke's staff is using with Team USA.
Eric Gordon, Indiana
EJ said his team really needed to get into a rhythm, and Northwestern was just the team to allow them to do so. IU crushed the Cats and EJ had 29 points along the way. Gordon also said he understands how crazy the Illinois game will be and he is ready for the "booing".
Jeff Caple, Oklahoma
The OU head coach told me that his team is really banged up right now. The depth of the Big 12 South (it is not split up in the standings but is split up in the schedule) has worn down his team with the January schedule. Caple said the thing he loves about his super stud Blake Griffin is that the freshman is a perfectionist. Griffin and his brother, Taylor, live in the gym and Taylor, a junior, is such a ridiculous worker that he constantly challenges Blake to stay around and work on his game.
Jim Laranaga, George Mason
The George Mason head coach told me that Dre Smith has been in a shooting slump since making 10 straight 3s (an NCAA record) versus James Madison. If GMU is to win this league and its next three road games, the Patriots will need Smith to stop thinking about his shot and just play. "America's Coach" believes that his team has turned a corner since moving Folarin Campbell to the point. Campbell had 20 points, five rebounds and five assists Saturday against James Madison in front of the largest crowd EVER at the Patriot Center.
While freshmen have dominated the headlines this year in college hoops, super sophs deserve respect for their improvement and overall output.
Ryan Anderson, Cal
How he is not one of the top 30 players on the Wooden Award finalist list is beyond me. Anderson dropped 33 on UW on Saturday night as Cal came back from the dead to sweep the Washington schools. Anderson is not only averaging 22 and 10, but he is also shooting 52.6 percent from the field, 47.5 percent from 3-point range and 87 percent from the free-throw line. Unreal.
Brook Lopez, Stanford
In truth, Lopez is in the shadow of Kevin Love in terms of big man dominance in Pac-10 play. Lopez is not only averaging 18 and 7, but he had dominated games at the defensive end as well. Stanford is one of the few teams to have tremendous size, and use it as well. The Cardinal force you to drive to their bigs, who in turn, clog the angles in the lane so that you take awkward shots.
Luke Harangody, Notre Dame
Harangody has changed his body to a leaner, more cut physique in Year 2 in South Bend, and his production has taken off. To this point, he is the POY in the Big East. Check out these eye-popping numbers in conference play: 29 and 16 vs. WVU, 29 and 14 vs. Marquette, 25 and 10 vs. Villanova, 31 and 14 vs. Providence and 29 and 14 vs. DePaul. Oh, and Notre Dame is 6-2 and second in the Big East.
A.J. Price, UConn
OK, maybe he is listed as a junior, but this is his second year playing at UConn. Price is finally excelling at the point for the Huskies. Not only has he blown up numbers-wise over the past 15 games, and his assist:turnover ratio is above 2-to-1 (unlike last year). But most importantly, UConn is winning with his decision-making skills. The Huskies may be in the best five-game run in college basketball this year, and Price is the main reason why.
JaVale McGee, Nevada
I know, who? Trust me, Mark Fox has found yet another gem. And McGee, a Flint, Mich., native, is the latest in a series of recruiting gets that will keep Fox at UNR for a long time to come. McGee is a legit 7-footer who has scored in double figures in all but four of the Wolf Pack's games this year, and his body is shaping up to be that of a lottery pick in a year or two. McGee can face up and shoot to about 3-point land as well, and in a transition year for the Pack (playing without Ramon Sessions who left for the draft), they are once again competitive in the WAC. Add in local product Luke Babbitt next year, and the Pack will be a Sweet 16 threat yet again.
And from the West Coast:
While Russell Westbrook was really impressive Saturday night at Pauley, he did it largely against Chase Budinger. Budinger, another talented sophomore, is the guy that Pac-10 teams attack when playing the U of A. In addition to not moving great laterally, Budinger at times does not look as though he cares about defense, and that is a major issue in his career heading forward.
Spotted at Cal's practice in Seattle on Friday night was none other than Kevin Durant. KD is friendly with Cal wing Patrick Christopher, who by the way hit a step-back 3 to seal the deal against UW on Saturday. Durant watched practice, shot some hoops and just hung out like any 19-year-old multi-millionaire. While it is really quite cool of Durant to not "roll deep" with a posse and be in a club on a Friday night that he has off, it also strikes a note to just how lonely the NBA can be in a strange city, surrounded by men who are not gym rats like KD. Note to Kevin Durant: Please stay the way you are.