The first week of conference play has been so exciting. Maybe this is a bit of recency bias, but this has been one of the most fun weeks I can remember in the last few seasons. There’s a lot going on in the world of college hoops, so instead of tackling one subject, I took some questions to take on a variety of topics. It’s mail time.
“Besides Lonzo Ball, which freshman has been the most impressive to you this season?” -@likagoodnabor
I could take the obvious route and give you any name like Fultz, Monk, Leaf, Markkanen, or Smith Jr. That’s not that fun, though, is it? I’m going to go with Zach Collins of Gonzaga, simply because he’s been playing so well but not getting a lot of national exposure. Collins is 7 feet tall but moves pretty well for his size, and has a pretty nice-looking jumper. He’s averaging 10.5 points and 5.2 rebounds in just under17 minutes a game. On a team so loaded with talent, that’s pretty impressive. His post play needs to improve a little bit more, but he plays under control and is tough on the glass, something the Zags desperately need. He most likely isn’t a one-and-done guy like some of the other names I mentioned, but staying in Spokane will allow him to develop into a dominant big man.
“How many bids do you see the Big 12 getting?” -@fakedebbiemeyer
This was a pretty easy answer…until Tuesday night when Texas Tech upset West Virginia and Kansas State nearly beat Kansas in Lawrence (by the way, the game winner? Yeah, four steps.). I would say that as of right now, there are three locks to be in (Kansas, Baylor, and WVU), and two locks to be out (Texas and Oklahoma). The middle is going to be the fun part of a surprisingly deep Big 12. Of all the second tier teams, Iowa State and Kansas State have the most talent to get it done. Texas Tech, TCU, and Oklahoma State will need to grab more than one marquee win in conference play to get some consideration. I’ll say six bids for now: KU, Baylor, WVU, ISU, K-State, and TCU (I think Jamie Dixon is doing a great job with a seriously underrated backcourt). Texas Tech is right on the bubble after last night, though. Also, I hope the real Debbie Meyer knows you’re a fake.
“Is Lorenzo Romar the coach at Washington next year?” -@edupridepress
Well, employer, I’m glad you asked. If it was up to me, no, and here’s why: Sure, Romar certainly turned the program around. He’s 293-179 all-time at Washington. He brought he Huskies to the tournament six times in his first nine years, which is pretty good. And he’s been a great recruiter for a long time, boasting a slew of NBA draftees, a few of whom had very successful careers. The problem is the last four seasons. The best he’s finished is four games above .500. Romar has had a lot to work with in his time at UDub but never really seemed to put it all together. He’s been steadily on the decline. And now, with arguably the best all-around player he’ll ever coach, this looks like one of his worst teams. It seems pretty clear to me that Romar is not the guy anymore for the Huskies, and while it will be tough to lose his recruiting skills, a coach’s first priority is to win.
All that being said, it is not up to me, as I am not a staff member in the University of Washington’s athletic department, and therefore can only give you a solid “I hope not” as an answer.
“Do Thomas Bryant, OG Anunoby, or James Blackmon, Jr. go pro after this year?” -@IUBBallNews
I’m not as familiar with Indiana basketball as some other great writers on this site, but I will give you an outsider’s perspective: Anunoby will go. He seems a bit hampered by that ankle injury still, but I would bet that his play picks back up as the season goes on, and a strong finish will keep him high on the draft boards. His athleticism and raw talent is too good at this point for him to pass up this opportunity. Bryant could go either way. If he goes, I think he’s a late first rounder at best. His high draft stock last year was due to his potential around the rim, but this year he’s tended to drift out along the perimeter, and has tried to add an outside game to his repertoire, and it doesn’t seem natural. He’ll make his money under the basket, so he should stay there. I think, and hope, JBJ stays in Bloomington. He could be a very valuable 3-point shooter in the Association, but would most likely end up being a undrafted free agent this year. As a prediction, he’ll take advantage of the new draft rules (which I love), and declare, find out what he needs to work on, and come back to Crean and the Hoosiers.
“How do you think Duke will handle Coach K’s absence?”-@EricGraves_97
When you think about it, Duke’s been playing in crisis mode all season long. Lots of injuries (and one suspension) have kept this team as a whole from gelling. There’s still work to do. Yet, after tonight’s performance they’re still one of the best teams in the country (sure, it was Georgia Tech in Cameron, but still). I think that alone says that this team can stay afloat for a while until they get their stuff together. This isn’t the first time K has done something like this. In 1994, he had back surgery before the season, and came back to the team too early. This shortened rehab caused the problem to flare up again and he missed the whole second half of the 1994-95 season. His replacement, Pete Gaudet, went 4-15 as interim head coach. Ironically, Jeff Capel, Coach K’s replacement this time around, was a player on that team. I think this is good for a couple of reasons. Reason 1: Capel was around for the first time, saw how poorly it went, and will keep that in mind. Learning from mistakes is one of the best ways to learn. Reason 2: Mike Krzyzewski is about to be 70 years old. He can’t coach forever. Capel was brought back to Durham after coaching (successfully) at VCU and Oklahoma, and has seemingly been groomed to be the next head coach at Duke. He knows the program and knows the players. This might be a preview of the next era of Duke basketball. Over the next four weeks, I expect Duke to remain towards the top of the ACC (their next seven games are, for the most part, winnable, with the toughest being at Louisville) and ready to go full steam ahead once the team, and coach, are at full strength. Of course, the most important part of all this is Mike Krzyzewski’s health, and I personally send my best wishes to Coach K for his surgery and rehab.
“How can I get a perfect bracket in March Madness 2017?” -@leotheo22
Copy mine. *drops mic*
Fun Fact of the Week: Staying on topic, that 1994-95 Duke team finished with a record of 13-18, and still holds the school record for most losses in a single season.
Photo via Seattle Times