It's not easy to come up with good ideas for column leads. (I only make it look easy.) So I am always grateful to all you Hoop Thinkers for coming up with terrific suggestions to start the day off right. So let's tip off this week's Mailbag with an intriguing question from
First, I want to commend Shane for asking me to look at "non-BCS conferences" as opposed to "mid-majors." That term is very hard to define and you always insult people by including them. (My producers at CBS encourage me to use the phrase "non-power conference schools," which is a mouthful.) I tend to define "mid-major" as a school that competes in a non-BCS conference, but that raises two problems. One, most intelligent people rightly despise the BCS. Second, that category includes a few schools like Memphis, Xavier and Gonzaga, which have better facilities, resources and recent success in the NCAA tournament than a lot of schools from the Big Six.
As for Shane's question, you might think it's close to impossible for a player from one of those non-BCS schools to win POY, but a quick check of the past winners of the Wooden and/or Naismith awards reveals a surprisingly long list:
My answer: Not bloody likely. But here is how I would rank the top six candidates from non-BCS colleges:
Great players all, but I don't think anyone will be able to claim national POY honors. However, one thing that is even more infrequent than a non-BCS player winning a POY award is a freshman winning it. That is a list of one:
Now on to the rest of the 'Bag ...
This was written before the Tar Heels' road win at N.C. State Tuesday night, but even so the panic among North Carolina fans has been grossly premature. In the first place, did you really expect this to be one of the top teams in the country given all they lost from last season? I fear writer-voters like myself did you all a disservice by voting UNC sixth in the preseason AP poll. Adil makes a good point about their wins over Ohio State (with a healthy Evan Turner) and Michigan State, so they have more margin for error than people are recognizing. Plus, not nearly enough is being said about how much injuries have contributed this recent rough patch. That is something the selection committee will definitely take into consideration.
If this team can stay healthy, and assuming the young guys improve, I think they'll get to .500 in the ACC, which should put them into the tournament with room to spare. So take a deep breath, Tar Heel Nation. All will be well in due time.
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 (
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,
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
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
Nor has Calhoun groomed a successor on his own staff the way Syracuse's
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
In addition, junior forward
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
Scott is totally right. Anderson deserves more attention for the season he is having, but in order for him to get it his team is going to have to get some more significant wins. Upsetting Kansas State in Manhattan was impressive, but this is still the team that lost on the road at Tulsa, Rhode Island and Oklahoma. I like that Anderson's assist and rebound numbers have improved over last season, but his three-point percentage has dropped dramatically from 40.8 percent to 31.9. At any rate, I promise I'll be watching, and when Anderson goes off again I'll make sure to point it out.
And finally, I got the usual spate of e-mails questioning why I did not include 40 teams in
Like I said, I can only rank 25 teams, and you can certainly make a good case for including any of the ones that were mentioned. Vandy and New Mexico made the AP poll without my vote, and the other two were at the top of "others receiving votes."
When I do my rankings, I try not to be too hidebound by where I ranked teams in the past. If I feel like a team should be dropped even though it hadn't lost, or boosted despite losing, then by golly that's what I am going to do. Furthermore, as I stated
Wake Forest is arguably one of the best 25 teams in the country, but I disagree with Phillip that losing at Miami isn't a bad loss. Also, maybe this is a little unfair, but I have to put an asterisk on that win at Gonzaga because
As for Vandy, I'm sorry but it's hard to rank a team based on a two-point win at Saint Mary's (impressive though that was). Why would I rank Vanderbilt ahead of Cincinnati when the Bearcats beat them on a neutral court and also have wins over Maryland and UConn?
The one school mentioned in these e-mails that has a legit case to be ranked is Florida State, especially in light of its sweep of Georgia Tech. I may have been overly influenced by the Seminoles' losses at Maryland and at home to N.C. State. Obviously, if they can win in Cameron Indoor Stadium on Wednesday, they won't need my vote to be ranked next week.