For all your college hoops questions, you may want to surf by and ask away as John Gasaway of BasketballProspectus.com holds court.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yo, college hoops nation! Happy new year! I'm here with my pointy hat and noisemaker, ready to tip things off. Talk to me!
lagronem (Newark, DE): So we can buy the CBP09 in bit form, when can we get in atoms?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Now available in handy atom form:
Buy it today!
Matt (Detroit): When will Basketball Prospectus articles have a comments section?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Whoa, housekeeping tops the topical list with the readers today! I would not be surprised to see this newfangled technology you refer to as "comments" coming to a Basketball Prospectus near you very soon.
Rick (Iowa): Does Iowa win a big ten game this year? Are they the worst major conference team is NCAAB?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, Iowa wins a Big Ten game this year. DePaul (and Air Force) last year and Oregon State in '08 notwithstanding it is very hard NOT to win at least one game in your conference. It doesn't happen very often. Look at Indiana last year. Their roster imploded completely in May and June of ‘08, much too late to effectively do anything about it in time for the coming season, and even the Hoosiers won a game. Um, against Iowa, which I guess is kind of your point.
No, the Hawkeyes won't be the worst major-conference team. They have Matt Gatens and they should be able to make some threes. DePaul and/or Georgia may well be worse. Even a team like Stanford (which by the way lost by 13 Friday night at San Diego) doesn't look like they'll scare too many opponents in 09-10.
Mike (Lowell (MA)): I realize BC lost Tyrese Rice but they return everyone else and despite that the usual suspects from some other websites pick them between 9th and 12th in most forecasts. Do you see them as a tournament team or Top 5 in the ACC?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Excellent point. I was mystified by the lack of respect given to BC by those usual suspects. You'll have to ask them about it but personally I'm on the record as thinking the Eagles will finish in a three-way tie for third-fourth-fifth along with Maryland and Florida State thanks to Al Skinner's consistently quite good flex offense. (Though they'll again be limited by their consistently permissive D.)
Jeff (Boston): John,
Back in the days when Indiana basketball was good and their football team was just as bad as it is now, my brother and I developed a theory of "conservation of sports excellence" in the Big Ten, wherein an avert-the-children's-eyes football team was a virtual guarantor of an excellent hardwood performance.
I guess what I'm saying is that Michigan and Illinois are going to win the Big Ten, right? I mean, Manny Harris just dropped a triple-double, and Nietzschean überfreshmensch Brandon Paul scored a brutally casual 22 in his debut.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Interesting theory! One that works quite well for my beloved Illinois. Ohio State (the university) would seem to be a bit of an outlier, however. A couple years back their teams in both relevant sports were simultaneously proceeding to national championship games wherein they both got thumped by Florida.
As far as Illinois and Michigan tying atop the Big Ten this season (in basketball, duh), um, I'm not quite ready to go there, Theory or no. Purdue will be really good. Harris is indeed a mensch, as I spelled out in detail in the book. (Buy it today, folks! Oops, that slipped out.) And for this Illini fan the exciting thing about Paul's debut was actually his backcourt mate, D.J. Richardson, who got to the free throw line no fewer than ten times (albeit against a tomato can). Fans in Assembly Hall were rubbing their eyes and using the paddles of life. Been a long time since that kind of aberrant behavior has been glimpsed in Champaign.
matt (Calgary): Fantasy question: Kenyon Martin or Elton Brand?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Just direct your feet to the Doolittle/Pelton side of the street. Also note that if we make it through this chat without a misplaced baseball question, the drinks are on me.
Ben (Dear Old UVa) (Raleigh, NC): Rider upset at Miss St. - does this prove that Miss St is a fraud or Rider is for real?
John Gasaway (Basketball): The Broncs return four starters from a team that went 12-6 in the MAAC so it's not like they were a cupcake. (Hope Mississippi State realized that going in.) If the Bulldogs do indeed slip even a little I'm on the record as thinking in-state rival Ole Miss will be right there in the SEC West. And as far as the huge other shoe out there waiting to drop, I am also on the (Twitter) record as thinking that Sidney will never become eligible. We'll see.
Steve (London): Thanks for your 2011 projection, John. Northwestern has some steep hills to climb this year given the injuries last week. They're still bigger and more athletic than we've seen though suddenly less experienced.
How will they weather the strong conference slate this year?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Not well. If you're an NU fan, best to stay abroad this year. The Big Ten is stronger and your 'Cats are suddenly much weaker (last year you had Coble & Moore; this year you have neither). Not a good combination. On the bright side, as you note, I think Carmody's men now have an excellent opening to make the NCAA tournament in 2011, assuming Coble can be persuaded to come back for a fifth year.
Mark (Milwaukee): Can Marquette be a tourny team this year? What are your thoughts on Buzz Williams as a coach?
John Gasaway (Basketball): I don't see them making the Dance in '10 but I must tell you I love, love, love Buzz Williams as a coach. Then again I am totally, totally biased. He so obviously uses tempo-free stats as part of his scouting and game prep that of course I dig the guy. During last year's NCAA tournament my In box filled up in a heartbeat when Williams started casually tossing around tempo-free goodies during a post-game presser in Boise. So he is great.
Thing is his roster's a smidge under-powered this season. I will happily revisit that characterization, though, should either or both of the freshmen, Williams and Maymon, come up big. They should take their inspiration from another first-year player in Milwaukee, one who seems to be doing OK I guess for the Bucks right now.
Todd (Austin): How about previewing the top 100 teams instead of the power conferences next year? I'd much rather read detailed previews on Memphis, Dayton, Xavier, etc. than DePaul, Colorado, and Georgia.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Or how about previewing the 27 best teams outside the major conferences for a total of 100? I could see doing something like that before doing a "Big East" preview that says sorry, DePaul it struggling to much to bother with. What do you think?
Kevin (Chicago): I know preseason prognostication can be as fruitless as any endeavor, but according to you, which preseason media top 10 darling is the most susceptible to having the bottom fall out, based on your analysis?
On the flip side, which team lurking outside the media top 25 has the best chance of shooting up the charts this year, based on your analysis?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Well, they're certainly not in everyone's top ten but in the book I did have words to the effect of: it's not Michigan's fault that they're being a little overrated in the preseason. The Wolverines were outscored in Big Ten play in '09. They're diminutive and teams had no problem making twos against the UM defense.
As far as being underrated, I don't envision them cracking the top 25 anytime soon but I do think people expect too little from Virginia. Historically speaking, teams that are well under-.500 but bring just about everyone back tend to improve a great deal. One excellent example here is actually Tony Bennett's first Washington State team in 2006-07.
Steve (North Dakota): When you determine a conference's strength, how much does depth matter and how much does having a couple elite teams matter?
John Gasaway (Basketball): For better or worse, having a couple elite teams makes sure the history gets written the way you'd like. Those teams will then make the Elite Eight or even Final Four and everyone will then say: Wow, that conference was really great this year! The Big Ten in 2005 is the locus classicus here. Illinois, Michigan State, and Wisconsin all made the Elite Eight, with the first two getting to the Final Four. People suddenly forgot the Penn State, Purdue, and Michigan combined won eight games.
ssteadman (St. Louis, MO): Georgetown booster here: the numbers looked good at the end of the game on Friday, but which team is for real: the team in the first half that was only 5 points better than Tulane, or the team in the second half that got out to a 20+ point lead?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Both! Tulane's not Kansas but they're not NJIT either. The Green Wave have three starters back from a 7-9 C-USA team so that makes them markedly better than the opponent that your brain expects to see facing your major-conference team in mid-November. Monroe will be a first-round and maybe even lottery pick next summer and he has no shortage of McDonald's All-Americans as teammates. The Hoyas should be a solid NCAA tournament team this year.
John (Chicago): I know none of them will be dancing this year, but the Great West actually has a conference this season! Do you have any team you like as an early favorite?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Quite right, let's make that NJIT reference above explicit. Yes, they actually have a conference, one with some robust geographical diversity. Welcome to D-I conference-hood, GW! Based on my time in northern CA I will always have a soft spot in my heart for the Aggies of UC-Davis. Go Aggs! Beat Sac State in the Causeway Classic! Woo!
Alex (St. Louis): Rotnei Clarke?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, Rotnei Clarke! (For anyone just tuning in, Clarke of Arkansas scored 51 points in a 130-68 laugher over Alcorn State Friday night.) "Pretty much the personification of "pure shooter," the book said of him. I'm just not ready to name Clarke as this year's Jodie Meeks quite yet. I'm not reading to name anyone as anything yet. It's November.
lagronem (Newark, DE): So Kansas and Texas is Godzilla vs Mechagodzilla, but what about my beloved Sooners--can they finish third in a jumbled second tier? Thanks, John.
John Gasaway (Basketball): You bet! I have OU a solid third at 10-6 begind Godzilla and Mechagodzilla, um, whatever that is. By now my fandom of Willie Warren is a matter of public record. And if Gallon and Mason-Griffin are as good as their clippings, whoa nellie! Andrew Fitzgerald and Steven Pledger also looked good in that first game against Mt. St. Mary's.
jbuofm (Peoria): Since you alluded to Michigan's soft interior defense last year, my question is do they have to fix that to be a good team? Or do they just need to improve their 3pt. percentage to have a better team?
John Gasaway (Basketball): No, they're already a good team. They just have to fix that to be a dangerous team. Yes, a better 3FG percentage would of course be amplified more at Michigan than just about anywhere else, the Wolverines being just about the most perimeter-oriented major-conference team in the nation. That part of the equation could happen. Last year Harris's 3FG percentage severely underperformed relative to his excellent FT percentage.
Steve (North Dakota): strategy question: all things being equal, good teams should play fast against bad teams, correct? So if you're (random best team in your conference mid major) do you play fast all year to beat weak opponents and then all of a sudden slow down in your 1st round NCAA tournament game?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Sure, in the abstract. It's just that changing speeds that abruptly in the real world can result in taking your team out of its comfort zone. That's why North Carolina has been so impressive the past five years. When they can, they run and win. When they other team slows them down, the Tar Heels still win. (Remember that piece by Pomeroy where he showed their offensive efficiency has actually been known to go up at slower speeds.)
Also keep in mind that in the second half on any game the pace is determined wholly by the situation and not at all by a priori strategy. If you're behind you're not going to go slow.
jbuofm (Peoria): How do you feel about the inaugural Mountain West-Missouri Valley challenge? It seems like a great idea, but its hard to believe they couldn't get any of the games on ESPN2 or ESPNU or ESPNClassic.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yes, I think it's an awesome idea. The TV exposure will follow as a matter of course they year after the Challenge can pit two top-25 teams against each other.
Ryan (Matteson, IL): Prediction for John Wall's debut tonight?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Lance Stephenson (Cincinnati) will score more points against Prairie View A&M than John Wall will score against Miami OH.
Brad (NYC): What in the world is this stuff about a new rule/emphasis on "fouls on secondary defenders"?
John Gasaway (Basketball): That is an outstanding example of something where I think I know what they're talking about, but until I see one called during an actual game I can't really be sure. (Kind of like someone's name you always see in print but you're not sure how to pronounce it.) Keep you posted.
jbuofm (Peoria): Do you think this is the year that the Missouri Valley goes back to being a two bid conference?
John Gasaway (Basketball): If not it would be devastating. When your conference champion (Northern Iowa) returns five starters and you still can't get a second team into the tournament, ouch.
Ross (Evansville): How will Louisville do this year? They're less loaded than last year but so's a lot of the Big East, right?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Yeah, pretty much. Another 16-2 isn't coming through that door but the 'Ville figures to again finish in the upper fourth of the league. Despite what he showed against Michigan State in the Elite Eight, Samardo Samuels is a really skilled post scorer. (Vanishing breed!) And Pitino seems pretty high on this McD AA Peyton Siva guy.
Alright, a couple more and then we're going to scoot. Stop spectating and get those questions in now, folks!
ssteadman (St. Louis, MO): Thanks for answering my earlier question. What role do you see Hollis Thompson settling into this season? Do you see him getting 15-20 minutes and being a sometimes scorer, or is he still too raw to take shots from Freeman and Wright?
John Gasaway (Basketball): In the Big East section of the book my colleague Dan Hanner pointed out that Thompson enrolled last spring. Certainly Thompson hopes he can be the sometime scorer you speak of, with more minutes than just 15-20. Yes, it might be hard for a newbie to get shots and possessions on this roster.
Bill (Chicago): You said in an interview (I think it was you) that Indiana will go up-tempo this year? Is that really possible in the Big Ten?
John Gasaway (Basketball): Sounds like me. Really happen? Well, kind of, sure. No one is going to play 18 games against those ten non-Indiana teams and average 75 possessions per game, of course. But if the Hoosiers really do press the tempo and look for opportunities off every miss by the opponent, they'll be doing something no team--not even Michigan State--has done in the conference for years. And I have gone on and on about how I think that will be good for the Big Ten: you see more different styles of play, you suggest a alternative for other coaches (granted, probably new ones) to follow, etc.
John Gasaway (Basketball): Alright then. Not a bad chat start to what promises to be a fun season. Everyone tune in to watch the Debut of Wall tonight and let's reconvene later. Later!