The ESPN experts released their preseason predictions for this season, and I will summarize them here. The experts on the ESPN panel were Andy Katz, Pat Forde, Jay Bilas, Fran Fraschilla, Doug Gottlieb, Dick Vitale, Howie Schwab, and Andy Glockner (the ESPN.com College Basketball Editor). Here is a list of the teams picked for the Final Four with the number of votes each received from the panel.
Michigan State: 7
So the consensus from the ESPN experts is simple: Duke, Texas, and Michigan State will all make the Final Four in Indianapolis. Their most likely counterpart will be UConn. I can't say that I would automatically disagree with these picks, as I have many of the same thoughts, but who does the ESPN.com experts pick to win the National Championship?
Michigan State: 1
So it looks like the pre-season favorites to cut down the nets in the RCA Dome in April will be Duke and Texas according to the ESPN.com experts. Nothing to earth shattering, especially since my pick to click this year is the Texas Longhorns (though since Andy Katz seems to agree, I think I might have to change my mind here).
The joy of reading these predictions from the ESPN.com experts is to see how cute they get when they name the players who are going to be on their All-American teams.
Andy Katz stuck with your vanilla Preseason All-American team, but through in the mid-major darling in Adam Morrison. It is not surprising that he had Daniel Gibson as the point guard, especially when he has Texas picked to win it all.
Pat Forde went with a different pick by taking Craig Smith from Boston College on his team, and decided that he also needed to add the mid-major darling in Adam Morrison. Nothing shocking, his Player of the Year was JJ Redick.
Jay Bilas went with a pick no one would have thought at point guard in Taquan Dean, but I like the pick. I am not sure if it will work out for Louisville with Dean at the point, but I have heard he is playing very well there so far.
All of the other Preseason All-American lists were pretty vanilla outside of the inclusion of Chris Hernandez by Doug Gottlieb (Doug knowing who Chris Hernandez is does not make you smart, just so you know) and Andy Glockner trying to look like he knows more than the rest of us by choosing Steven Smith of LaSalle (I guess that is why he is the Editor and not just a regular contributor).
Dee Brown was on four of the eight Preseason All-American lists, so the Illini senior point guard is getting definite national recognition for what should be a standout senior season in the Orange & Blue.
Tonight was the first time I got to see any college basketball on TV, and even though it was Duke, I had to watch the game. The Blue Devils ended up defeating Boston University (sorry this is not hockey BU, you are not able to beat the Number One team in the country on the road) 64-47. Duke struggled in this game early as BU was controlling the pace (On Monday night, each team only had 63 possessions, about eight less than the Blue Devils and their opponents averaged last season), and frustrating the Blue Devils with a slow down game, and precision back door cuts. Eventually, the Blue Devils talent was too much for BU, and the Dukies pulled away. The big news from the game was that JJ Redick missed two free throws. I am sure he is going to go back to his apartment in Durham and write a poem about how he should not have done that.
Around the Big Ten, Iowa was a winner 86-41 over Maryland Eastern Shore who is best known as the team I had to start out with in ESPN College Basketball 2K5 as I tried to get the Illinois job. Iowa, kept up the quick pace they played with last season with a pace factor of 79.24 (notice it is about sixteen more possessions for each team than Duke had. Iowa is one of the teams in the Big Ten, much like Illinois and Michigan State that will push the pace when it fits their needs this season). The high point men for Iowa were Jeff Horner and Gregg Brunner who each scored 16 points. Brunner also contributed a rather pedestrian, for him, seven rebounds (he may be the best rebounder in the Big Ten). Iowa was able to force 25 turnovers from Maryland Eastern Shore, 17 of them on Hawkeye steals and held the Hawks to 27.1% shooting from the floor. For a detailed review of the Iowa game, HawkeyeNation has some quotes / notes from Rob Howe.
Elsewhere in the Big Ten, Northwestern pulled an upset of Charlotte with a 61-47 victory over Charlotte in the Black Coaches Association Invitational held in Laramie, WY. Vedran Vukusic scored 28 points on 9-13 shooting in the Wildcat victory. If you wanted to see a boring basketball game, this would have been one of them as Northwestern was able to control the pace down to a Northwestern-favorable 56.68 (about 57 possessions per team). Charlotte only shot 30.8% from the floor, and never could get into an offensive rhythm.
In Columbia, MO the Missouri Tigers continued their tradition of losing to bad non-conference teams in their home stadium with an 80-77 loss to Sam Houston State. Sure, the Bearkats are not the Belmont Bruins, but the Tigers were not supposed to lose to them in the first round of the Preseason NIT. If you want to view some fun carnage, check out TigerBoard. Be nice to our neighbors to the West, we need Quinny the Pooh to stay in Columbia as long as possible.
The Scout.com rankings for the Top Quarterbacks in the Midwest came out on Monday afternoon. Illinois commitment Isiah "Juice" Williams was the pre-season favorite to head up this list and according to Scout.com's Chris Pool and Bob Lichtenfeld he is also the number one quarterback in the Midwest after the season has completed. Congratulations Juice! We can't wait to see you suit up in the Orange & Blue.
There was one interesting comment from the two Scout.com experts about a quarterback. Sure, it is not someone that Illinois is interested in, but I could not help but think that this might be a name we see in five years coming out of the MAC and making an impact on NFL draft boards based on this assessment.
The lack of interest in Ohio's Nate Davis is just baffling. Davis could easily be the No. 1 quarterback prospect in the region. He's big, strong, has an excellent arm and shows tremendous leadership skills. If the bigger schools don't come calling this winter, Davis could be making an immediate impact in the MAC or at Cincinnati.Hmm ... a MAC level quarterback that seems more talented than that level? We will have to see how this one turns out, but right now all I can think about is Charlie Frey.
In NBA news, the Utah Jazz lost their second straight game on Monday night with a 73-62 loss to the New York Knicks. Deron Williams led the Jazz with 18 points and 5 assists. The Jazz were playing without starters Andrei Kirilenko, Keith McLeod, Carlos Boozer, and Gordan Giricek. Despite all the injuries, Deron still did not get his first NBA start, though he did play 32 minutes, second on the team only less than Mehmet Okur.
The Memphis Grizzlies were able to defeat the Lakers on Monday night 85-73. Brian Cook saw 17 minutes of action scored 4 points and pulled down 6 rebounds, 2 offensive.