Are You Ready For Some Hoops?

Already approaching your fill of football and wanting to dive right into the college basketball season head first? Well, get ready to mark off a bunch of days on your November calendar, because your sports-viewing scheduled is going to book up in a hurry...

College basketball practice (the real deal, not the individual workouts and conditioning drills already taking place on most campuses) gets under way on Oct. 12.

 

But I'm all for bypassing October (yeah, even if it means missing a few cool college gridiron matchups) and jumping right into November.

 

November. . . it will give us the better part of the month for a (relatively) quick analysis as to just how accurate all of those preseason rankings were.

 

Some games (assuming the matchups take place) I'll be watching – be it live or TiVo – and, without a lot of question, use to reshape my rankings.

 

Of course, maybe they won't need reshaping that quickly – if I'm so fortunate.

 

College Hoops Classic (Nov. 16/New York City)

Projected finalists: Memphis vs. Connecticut

Could alter the final: Kentucky

Frank Says: The Tigers will be a consensus preseason Top Five choice (some – and I'm not one of those – will have them No. 1)

 

And the Huskies will bounce back from a very uncharacteristic season  (no NCAA Tourney bid) and could be good enough – if the guard play is a lot better than the extremely disappointing level it was at last season – to win the Big East Tournament and play into the second weekend of the NCAA Tourney next time around.

 

By the way, Memphis will be back in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 4 to face USC (in what will likely be Derrick Rose and O.J. Mayo's first and only college tussle) in the Jimmy V Classic. Yep – that will be worth perusing as well.

 

College Basketball Experience Classic (Nov. 20/Kansas City)

Projected finalists: UCLA vs. Michigan State

Could alter the final: Maryland and/or Missouri

Frank Says: Do you love half-court oriented/pound-it-out/monster defense struggles?

 

Then (unless the Terps or Tigers render this projected final moot) you could be watching the best non-conference showdown of the season – prior to the NCAA Tournament, of course.

 

The Bruins (I'm leaning toward making them the www.frankhoops.com preseason  No. 1, as I did for Lindy's Magazine) and Spartans (they're a Top 10 lock) will guard the snot out of each other. I know, it's kind of a too-vivid description but you get the point.

 

Two likely All-American guards (and favorites to be Players of the Year in their respective Pac-10 and Big Ten conferences), Darren Collison and Drew Neitzel, will probably be matched, head up, much of the way.

 

EA Sports/Maui Invitational (Nov. 21/Lahaina, Maui)

Projected finalists: Duke vs. Marquette

Could alter the final: Arizona State, Illinois or LSU

Frank Says: The Blue Devils and Golden Eagles could be Sweet 16 (or better) teams this spring if point guards Greg Paulus and Dominic James bounce back from disappointing seasons – and others, naturally, have also improved.

 

Potentially cool matchup: Duke's Demarcus Nelson or Gerald Henderson vs. Jerel McNeal.

 

And will the Blue Devils' freshman Kyle Singler be the best player in Lahaina over those three days? Yes, he will.

 

NIT Season Tip-Off (Nov. 23/New York City)

Could alter the final: Ohio State or Columbia

Projected finalists: Syracuse vs. Texas A&M

Frank Says: Both are Top 20-caliber (at least), with the Orange set to return to the NCAA Tournament (a la Big East mate Connecticut) and the Aggies not likely to miss an NCAA beat under new head honcho Mark Turgeon.

 

Here's a big reason why Syracuse could win this event and be a team that no one would be anxious to hook up against in the NCAA Tourney: In a season when O.J. Mayo and Derrick Rose will be showered with 99 percent of the national hype at the position, freshman classmate and fellow point guard Jonny Flynn will be every bit as significant, if not more, to his team's success.

 

Legends Classic (Nov. 24/Newark)

Could alter the final: West Virginia

Projected finalists: Tennessee vs. Texas

Frank Says: The Volunteers are definitely a Top Five (or better) club with the Longhorns more in the Top 15 range.

 

Chris Lofton of Tennessee and D.J. Augustin of the Longhorns are potential All-Americans and conference Players of the Year.

 

But the difference in this game – and one of the prime reasons the Volunteers could win a national title – will be all of those guys named Smith on the Tennessee roster.

 

Las Vegas Invitational (Nov. 24/Las Vegas)

Projected finalists: North Carolina vs. Louisville

Could alter the final: Old Dominion and/or BYU

Frank Says: Saturday night, post-Thanksgiving, in Las Vegas and what is there better to do than watch probable (the Tar Heels) and possible (the Cardinals) Final Four teams hooking up, more than four months before the real deal in San Antonio?

 

Newest Hall of Fame coach (on the college level) Roy Williams has a team that will probably have too much firepower to lose in the Orleans Hotel Arena. In fact, it's got too much firepower to lose in almost any non-NBA arena it plays in this season.

 

The best of the non-tourney November matchups

Arizona at Kansas (Nov. 25/Lawrence)

Frank Says: Playing in Phog Allen Fieldhouse – in November – against a Top Five (or better) team might be a bit too much to overcome the club from the Pac-10.

 

Slap them on a neutral court in late March, though, and the results could be very different, especially after projected Wildcats' point guard Jerryd Bayless has four months of college experience on his Nikes.



 

Inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in April, 2005, Frank Burlison is Scout.com's national basketball expert and is also a columnist for the Long Beach (Calif.) Press-Telegram. He can be reached at frank.burlison@presstelegram.com. Read more of Burlison's pieces at www.frankhoops.com


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