Practice just started on Friday and
there is still the better part of three weeks to go before the Nov. 8 Coaches
vs. Cancer Classic-opening games at
And there are a lot of questions that need to be answered leading into the season openers before we might have a clearer idea at what kind of seasons the teams from some of the elite programs in the country are going to have.
Here are some of those questions that come most quickly to mind. And, as you probably surmised, the program's respective coaches – and those who follow their teams – could be searching for those answers well into the season:
1. Who will ultimately be Duke's primary playmaker? The Blue Devils will have one of the most explosive and efficient offenses in the country with a roster that will include a couple of probable first team All-Americas (Shelden Williams and J.J. Redick), three other returning players who averaged from 18.9 to 21.7 minutes per game and a five-player class of newcomers that includes the most gifted freshman in the country (Josh McRoberts).
So, who will serve as the "point
guard" for Hall of Fame member and soon-to-be
2. What is going to be the eventual makeup
In the meanwhile, the onus is on freshmen Rob Garrison and/or Craig Austrie to assimilate the force-fed lessons on playing point guard on the major college level that they are receiving from Jim Calhoun and his staff. Even without Williams (a much better scorer than his 9.6 points per game average of last season would indicate), there will be more than enough potential point production on the floor for the Huskies. But can Garrison and/or Austrie, at least until Williams returns – if that proves the case – be sound with the basketball and make sure it's in the proper hands, in the right spots on the floor, often enough to keep Calhoun's offense humming relatively smoothly?
3. How does Lute Olson replace the two most
integral pieces of his team from a year ago? The departure of the most
clutch jump shooter in the country last season (Salim Stoudamire) seemed to open the
door for Jawann McClellan to slide
into his spot in the lineup. But the sophomore from
Junior Kirk Walters, who averaged about 10
minutes per game as Lute Olson's
primary post reserve last season, is expected to step in for lottery selection
4. How affective will Curtis Sumpter and Jason Fraser be for Villanova after off-season knee surgeries? Wildcats' coach Jay Wright may not have the nation's best backcourt but, with the foursome of Randy Foye, Allan Ray, Mike Nardi and Kyle Lowry, a strong case can be made that he has the deepest collection of very good guards on any single college roster this season.
But you don't win Big East
Conference championships or get to Final Fours with 6-foot-3 and under league
5. Can Quentin Thomas make Tar Heels fans
"forget" Raymond Felton? I'm kidding, of course. Thomas isn't going to make
anyone lose sight of how important Felton was in
Thomas averaged only six minutes per game backing up Felton last season and finished with one more turnover than assist (48 to 47). But no coach in the sport evaluates talent better than Roy Williams. So the perspective here is that if the Tar Heels, despite losing their top seven players from last season, don't return to the NCAA tournament in March, it's not going to be because of something less than solid play out of Thomas.
6. When will the NCAA reinstate
Maybe so. But let's do a roll call to see how many Division I head coaches would love to have Morris in their lineups this season. When (or, maybe we should say "if") he is eventually reinstated, Morris is capable of evolving into one of the best centers in college basketball – and an NBA player, even if it takes two or three years longer than he assumed it would.
And, certainly, the Wildcats will be a better team if he's on the floor for them.
BOUNCING AROUND THE COUNTRY:
But there is just as little doubt
from my perspective that
He's the sixth player to commit to
the Tar Heels from the Class of 2006, joining two other players, 6-4 Wayne Ellington
With the current UNC freshman class factored into the equation, we might as well slap the Tar Heels on a short list of teams likely to play in the 2007 Final Four.
*Nearly – but not quite – as
stunning as Wright's decision to commit to North Carolina (many thought that
Duke, Kentucky and Vanderbilt were all more likely to land him), was the Monday
news that Chicago Crane Tech point guard Sherron Collins had committed to
Kansas, just a day after wrapping up his visit to Lawrence. Collins made his
decision, canceling visits to his two other finalists
I don't have to check the message boards to know how much heat Illinois coach Bruce Weber is drawing from some of his program's followers who, naturally, thought Collins would be a real nifty replacement for Dee Brown a year from now.
*After further consideration (and input from Marquette followers), I should have included Marquette's group of freshmen as one that is close to being one of the 10 most influential classes in the country this season. Watch out for point guard Dominic James. He should challenge for Big East Freshman of the Year.
An April inductee into the USBWA
Hall of Fame, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's National Basketball Expert
and is also a columnist for the