Just yesterday, SI released its 2008 men's college basketball top 20 rankings. If you're an informed college hoops fan, there are certain things you should know about each of these teams. There are also less-crucial morsels that are really only good as conversation starters at parties. Below, you'll find these semi-important facts, rumors and observations for each top 20 team.
1. North CarolinaNo matter the time of year, coach Roy Williams always has a solid tan. It looks good on TV, but if you ever get within five-feet of the man, you realize how unnatural it is that he looks like he just got off the beach even when it's February in North Carolina. Also, Tyler Hansbrough is a really good ping-pong player, even with stressed shins.
2. ConnecticutHasheem Thabeet, UConn's 7-foot-3 junior center, has a 7-foot-5 wingspan, which make him wider than he is tall. Thabeet learned English in Tanzania by watching The Cosby Show reruns. Oh, and I almost forgot, coach Jim Calhoun, who has a much smaller wingspan, once worked as a gravedigger.
3. UCLAGenetically speaking, point guard Darren Collison was born to be fast. Both his mother and father were world-class runners who competed for Guyana in the Pan American Games. His mother, June Griffith, also represented Guyana in the 1984 Summer Olympics.
4. LouisvilleSenior forward Terrence Williams owns over 300 pairs of shoes and fears heights, which is ironic considering he only has two feet and can jump out of the gym.
5. PurdueCurrent head coach Matt Painter was once an assistant coach under Gene Keady, the Boilermakers' all-time winningest head coach. Other former Keady assistants include Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings, Illinois coach Bruce Weber, Missouri State coach Cuonzo Martin and, of course, former UCLA coach Steve Lavin. In an unrelated note, Keady had the best comb-over in the business.
6. Notre DamePower forward Luke Harangody's eligibility status came into question this summer when a company used images of Harangody and quarterback Jimmy Clausen in an online ad. Technically, that made both players spokesmen for the company, but since neither player consented to the advertisement and Notre Dame quickly sent out a cease-and-desist letter, the NCAA ruled both players could maintain their eligibility.
7. PittsburghThe Panthers' season could very well hinge on point guard Levance Fields' play, so let's hope he doesn't try to fight a cop again like he did before last season. According to the police report, an officer asked Fields to stop screaming obscenities outside a nightclub in Pittsburgh. Fields continued to curse and then reached for the officer's weapon. He promptlyreceived a Taser to the chest. I wonder how many other college basketball players have ever been Tasered?
8. DukeAfter Trent Johnson left Stanford for LSU, Cardinal freshman forward Miles Plumlee backed out of his commitment and headed to Duke. Ironically, the 6-foot-10 big man went from Stanford to Duke right as Stanford first-year coach Johnny Dawkins went from Duke to Stanford. Plumlee's a good grab for Coach K, not only because he provides much-needed size inside, but because he's got two younger brothers, Mason and Marshall, who are also going to be good ball players. Mason already committed to Duke in February.
9. TexasA.J. Abrams -- all 5-foot-11, 155 lbs. of him -- tested those murky NBA waters this offseason, but after he failed to receive an invite to the league's pre-draft camp, he withdrew his name and decided to return to Texas for his senior season. With that kind of decision making, Abrams should have no problem replacing D.J. Augustin at point.
10. TennesseeIn their final preseason game, the Tennessee Volunteers took on the mighty Tusculum Pioneers. The game was tied at tip, but quickly digressed into a blowout as the Vols led 40-2 after 14 minutes. During this stretch of preseason dominance, Tennessee made two more field goals than Tusculum attempted.
11. MemphisPoint guard Doneal Mack originally signed with Florida, but was not admitted to the school for academic reasons. Coach John Calipari had no problem getting Mack to come to Memphis, and Memphis had no problem admitting the 6-foot-5 guard, which makes sense when you check out the Memphis basketball website and notice every player on the team who's old enough to have a major is concentrating in either interdisciplinary studies or sport and leisure management.
12. Michigan StateHow's this for testing your team early? To start off the the season, the Spartans play in the Old Spice Classic, where they'll face off against Maryland in the first round. If Izzo's boys beat the Terrapins, they'll play Gonzaga or Oklahoma State, and if they win that game they'll most likely play Tennessee or Georgetown. Then MSU heads to Detroit to take on North Carolina and, later in the season, the team will play both Texas and Kansas. Needless to say, strength of schedule will not be an issue for the Spartans.
13. GonzagaPart of the reason Gonzaga's ranked so highly has to do with reigning West Coast conference player of the year Jeremy Pargo's return. After last season, the 6-foot-2 guard entered his name in the NBA Draft, but after consulting with older brother and former NBA guard Jannero Pargo (who went undrafted in the 2002 NBA Draft), he returned to Spokane.
14. GeorgetownMark my words -- Austin Freeman is going to blow up this year. The 6-foot-4 guard is ridiculously talented. He is also the first DeMatha Catholic high school grad (alumni include Adrian Dantley and Danny Ferry) to attend Georgetown in two decades and to Washingtonians, that's important.
15. MarquetteGuard Dominic James has a tattoo of himself under the words "God-Given Talent," which sounds conceited until you see him jump. The 5-foot-11 guard has a forty-inch vertical.
16. Arizona StateCenter Eric Boateng, a 6-foot-10 Duke transfer and McDonald's All-American selection, is the only person at ASU who is fluent in Twi, a language spoken in Ghana. When he wanted to fulfill his language requirement, he had to find a professor at Indiana to administer his exam, which he passed.
17. OklahomaWhen Oklahoma's star forward Blake Griffin decided to forgo the NBA Draft and return for his sophomore season, highly-regarded recruit Willie Wilson committed to Oklahoma, guaranteeing that, for the first time in program history, two alumni of the high-school All-Star game would be playing on the same Sooner basketball team.
18. DavidsonStephen Curry really wanted to follow in his father's footsteps and play basketball at Virginia Tech, but Hokies coach Seth Greenberg only offered him a spot as a walk-on. In fact, the only schools to recruit this All-America player were Winthrop, VCU and Davidson. Out of those schools, Davidson is the only one that has a mandatory, college-run laundry program for all its students, so that made Curry's choice pretty easy.
19. MiamiThe Hurricanes were so bad at basketball back in the early '70's, the university actually dropped the hoops program after the '72 season. Miami brought the program back 12 years later. Good thing, too. Last season, Sienna transfer Jack McClinton became the first men's basketball player in school history to earn All-ACC first team honors. That's got to make Rick Barry proud.
20. VillanovaScottie Reynolds, Nova's leading scorer last season, originally signed a letter of intent to play at Oklahoma, but was released from his obligation when coach Kelvin Sampson left for Indiana. Reynolds decided to play for Jay Wright at Villanova partly because the coach looks so good on the bench. Wright is easily the best dressed coach in college basketball.
Got more college basketball conversation starters? Send them to Jacob.Osterhout@gmail.com.
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