Let the Madness Begin

As college hoops practices get under way, we offer a primer for the 2012--13 season
October 22, 2012

At least it was midnight somewhere—even if that somewhere was Bucharest rather than Bloomington—when the college basketball season debuted at 5 p.m. EST last Friday with ESPNU's live broadcast of Midnight Madness: Indiana Practice. The presumptive No. 1 Hoosiers' first official workout gave us a glimpse at a point guard nicknamed Yogi (blue-chip freshman Kevin Ferrell) and license to reference a Yogi-ism. It gets late early in this sport, where Midnight Madness has been mostly a misnomer since the NCAA relaxed its start-of-practice restrictions in 2005.

Even in the hoops haven of Tobacco Road, it was considered normal that Duke worked out in the afternoon on Friday, and North Carolina and North Carolina State tipped off in the seven o'clock hour, with the usual emcees, gags and televised scrimmages. What was unusual? Seeing the Wolfpack, for decades the region's stragglers, posturing like lead dogs.

Second-year coach Mark Gottfried made the humblest of entrances to PNC Arena—by zip-lining down from the upper deck while the theme from Superman played and a feed from a gott cam strapped to his waist was broadcast on the scoreboard. Gott's got a team, and he wanted the 10,257 fans who came out for the first practice to know it: For the first time since 1974--75, the season after N.C. State won its first national title (chart, below), the Wolfpack is likely to be ranked ahead of both Duke and UNC when the first AP poll is released on Oct. 26. With four starters (Lorenzo Brown, Scott Wood, C.J. Leslie and Richard Howell) back after a Sweet 16 run and three McDonald's All-Americans (Rodney Purvis, T.J. Warren and Tyler Lewis) joining them, it did not seem ridiculous when Gottfried grabbed the mike and proclaimed the Wolfpack's goal of playing "on Monday night in April." In a preseason with no overwhelming title favorite, Gottfried is one of many coaches who can be forgiven for thinking late early.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

Ranking

Duke

North Carolina

North Carolina State

*AP preseason polls. Estimated 2012--13 rankings are based on a composite of polls from several media outlets.

1 5 10 15 20 25

1974-'75

'75-'76

'76-'77

'77-'78

'78-'79

'79-'80

'80-'81

'81-'82

'82-'83

'83-'84

'84-'85

'85-'86

'86-'87

'87-'88

'88-'89

'89-90

90-'91

'91-'92

'92-'93

'93-'94

'94-'95

'95-'96

'96-'97

'97-'98

'98-'99

'99-2000

'00-'01

'01-'02

'02-'03

'03-'04

'04-'05

'05-'06

'06-'07

'07-'08

'08-'09

'09-'10

'10-'11

'11-'12

'12-'13

Good Points

How do you like your point guards: pass-first, shoot-first or somewhere in between? The 2012--13 season will showcase a bumper crop of elite floor generals, whose divergent personalities are plotted on the matrix. (The y-axis is assist-to-field-goal-attempt ratio, which measures how frequently each player looks to pass; the x-axis is the percent of team possessions each uses, which helps quantify the size of their role in the offense.)

Point guards in the upper-left quadrant—Ohio State's Aaron Craft, Missouri's Phil Pressey, Louisville's Peyton Siva and N.C. State's Lorenzo Brown—tend to distribute as often as they try to score. Baylor's Pierre Jackson falls in the in-between category.

In the lower-right quadrant—featuring South Dakota State's Nate Wolters, Murray State's Isaiah Canaan, Michigan's Trey Burke and Ohio's D.J. Cooper—are players who have a primary scoring role; these three are more than twice as likely to shoot as they are to pass. Wolters is close to a one-man show, but it takes an extreme profile to get All-America attention in Brookings, S.D.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

Assist-to-Field-Goal-Attempt Ratio

.90 .80 .70 .60 .50 .40 .30 .20

Possession Usage %

15 17 19 21 23 25 27 29 31 33

CRAFT

PRESSEY

SIVA

BROWN

JACKSON

BURKE

CANAAN

COOPER

WOLTERS

Sweet Returns

Ohio gained national attention with a Cinderella run last March, and the Bobcats look primed for an encore this season. Among last season's Sweet 16 teams, Ohio is the anti-Kentucky. While the Wildcats bring back just 7.0% of their minutes played (chart, right), and are relying on yet another monster recruiting class, Ohio returns an astounding 96.9% of its minutes (and 12 players) from a group that came within a half-court heave of a trip to the Elite Eight as a No. 13 seed but lost in overtime to No. 1 seed North Carolina.

Ohio's lone question mark is on the sideline because coach John Groce left for a higher-paying gig at Illinois in March. His departure gave Jim Christian the chance to escape the hoops backwater of TCU and receive the best inheritance of any of Division I's 48 new head coaches. Christian made two NCAA tournament appearances with Kent State in 2005--06 and '07--08, and now has the MAC's best backcourt—point guard D.J. Cooper and off-guards Walter Offutt (below) and Nick Kellogg—as well as the best guard trio of any mid-major. Anything less than a return to the Big Dance will be a letdown.

No MAC team has earned an at-large bid to the NCAAs since Miami (Ohio) in 1999, but the Bobcats' nonconference schedule is loaded with opportunities to create a worthy at-large résumé, including games against Richmond, St. Bonaventure, Robert Morris, Memphis, Oakland and Marshall. It will be apparent early whether the veteran-rich mid-major has survived its coaching transition.

[The following text appears within a chart. Please see hardcopy or PDF for actual chart.]

% Points

% Minutes

100% 80% 60% 40% 20% 0%

SIGN OF THE APOCALYPSE

During the NHL lockout the Montreal Gazette is playing out the Canadiens' season on EA Sports's NHL 13, game by game, and publishing news stories off the results of the simulated matchups.

ILLUSTRATIONILLUSTRATION BY DARROW CHARTDATA FROM STATSHEET.COM PHOTOCOURTESY EA SPORTS (NHL 13) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (CRAFT) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (SIVA) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (JACKSON) PHOTOJOHN W. MCDONOUGH (WOLTERS) PHOTOGREG NELSON (PRESSEY) PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO (BROWN) PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO (COOPER) PHOTODAVID E. KLUTHO (CANAAN) PHOTOANDREW HANCOCK (BURKE) PHOTOJOHN BIEVER (OFFUTT) CHART

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)