This has been a busy week at CBSSports.com in the world of college basketball. We released our preseason Top 100 (and one) college basketball players for the upcoming season and our No. 1 through No. 351 rankings. Our conference preview series has started, with the Missouri Valley projected. Plus, it’s been a busy week of news, what with the Louisville scandal continuing, Kentucky’s combine occurring, and all-conference teams being released.
Another little piece of news that occurred was NCAA VP of men’s basketball Dan Gavitt commenting on the idea of pushing back the start of the college basketball season. We asked our writers from the Eye on College Basketball team — Gary Parrish, Matt Norlander and Sam Vecenie — what their thoughts were on that, as well as a pair of other questions to preview the upcoming season.
1. In a quote to the San Jose Mercury News, Men’s Basketball VP Dan Gavitt said “there are merits on a lot of levels” to starting the college basketball season one month later than it currently starts. Do you agree? Or is the sport fine how it is?
Vecenie: This is always something that’s raised by idealists trying to fix the game, although it’s never really been a seriously considered topic as far as I know. Even Dan Gavitt, the guy who made the initial statement, said that this is something the NCAA is not considering at this time later on Wednesday afternoon. And that’s the right call for something like this. Not only is it silly — seriously, the NCAA OWNS March in a way that it would likely be unable to in other months — but it’s impractical just simply on a resource allocation basis.
You’d need to adjust television contracts with Turner regarding the NBA, find a way to get advertising dollars reallocated, and fix all of your contracts with the arenas holding Tournament games, among many other issues that would arise. It takes time and effort to do all of those things instead of working on other ills in the game, like pace of play, terrible officiating, attendance at games, number of timeouts, and overall level of play. Simply put, it’s not an efficient use of logistical resources when there are SO many other problems with college basketball that are pressing and hurting the potential of the game.
Norlander: OK, so this topic kind of took off in a way I did not expect it to on Wednesday. PTI devoted a block in its opening segment to it, even. I’m torn, but if I had to pick which side I come out on, it’s keeping things as is. I like the pace of the season as we have it. I like that we have a good boost on non-conference games in November, and then the December finals lull comes before some Christmas-time bonus games, and then into conference play around New Year’s.
Ultimately I’d be fine if the move was made — I’m not so attached to “March Madness” because the games are going to be awesome regardless of when they’re played on the calendar. Here’s another reason why I don’t think it’s likely to happen: The timing as it relates to NBA draft declarations and all that comes with that transition. See, college players work off the NBA cycle. And the NBA could in theory bump its draft back a week or two, but given the rise of summer league and all of that, I’m not seeing it. So you’d have the NCAA tournament end in late April or early May, and then guys would have even less time to prep for the draft? It’s not the worst thing in the world, I just think it’s one more logistical hurdle that will prevent the NCAA from making this move any time in the next decade.
Parrish: I don’t think it’s worth breaking contracts over. And the NCAA will never leave money on the table. So if it wouldn’t make sense financially, it wouldn’t make sense to them. But if the question is whether college basketball could benefit from getting out of football’s shadow, I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. Sometimes we’re blind too it because we are paid to follow the sport closely 12 months a year. But most folks aren’t and most folks don’t. So while I agree there are other problems with college basketball — the biggest being that the sport’s best players change pretty much every season, which prevents casual fans from being able to name 10 active players at any given time — I could definitely get on board with a season that starts and ends later.
Because there’s no reason March Madness couldn’t be April Madness or May Madness. Big events are big events. We used to have the Super Bowl in January, now we have it in February. We used to have the World Series in October, now it drifts into November. And we’ll soon have a World Cup in the winter, and it’ll be weird but fine. So it’s silly to suggest college basketball is somehow different from every other sport. Long as there’s a bracket and point spreads, millions will watch the NCAA Tournament whether you play it in March, April or May, I promise. And as for how a schedule change might affect the NBA Draft, I say let the NBA worry about that. There’s little evidence to suggest the NBA caters to college basketball much. So, if I were the NCAA, I’d make the NBA adjust to us.
2. Who’s the guy you feel worst about omitting from our list of Top 100 (and one) players?
Parrish: This is easy — Maryland’s Robert Carter. As I mentioned on the podcast, you guys finished the list without me because I was tied up Saturday with — don’t laugh — a Wiffleball tournament. So that’s my excuse. Because I absolutely would’ve had Carter on the list had I been a part of finishing the list. He averaged 11.4 points and 8.4 rebounds per game two seasons ago at Georgia Tech, and he’s in the best shape of his life now. In other words, he could end up being the second-best player on a national championship team, which makes his omission silly. I’m disappointed in you guys. I mean, thanks for finishing the list. But you let me down. And you let Robert Carter down, too.
Vecenie: GP, you know Carter better than anyone since you got a chance to go down there and check out practice with them. I raised this point to our trusted friend Matthew, but he opted for Rasheed Sulaimon instead. This likely won’t end well for us. But instead of using Carter, I’ll look to Cincinnati — who surprisingly had zero representatives on our list — and note that Octavius Ellis was probably the best player on a Round of 32 team last year.
He ended up making the second team All-AAC team, and has an argument as the most complete returning big man in the AAC. If you made me choose between he and Markus Kennedy — someone who deservedly made our list — I’d probably choose Ellis just because he’s a better rebounder and rim protector. That seems like someone we should probably have on the list. Yeah, we probably messed that one up. Sorry, Octavius.
Norlander: No sympathy for Carter, no sympathy for GP, who was trying to go Yoenis Cespedes on some local high school-age wannabe Wiffle Ball heroes, I’m sure. My pick: Abdul-Malik Abu. He was bumped in favor of Kansas Svi Mykhailiuk at 101. Some of our list is about projection. And I think by the end of the season he’ll have put together a year that warrants his inclusion. I’ll also note this for Iowa fans checking in: Jarrod Uthoff was hotly debated and literally missed by two votes. But just because he’s a part of the Big Ten preseason all-league teams doesn’t mean he’s automatically in here. That’s not how the list is formed.
3. Someone on Twitter tossed this out to us earlier in the week. Let’s re-rank the top five teams in the country … but with a twist. It’s 3-on-3. No bench, just three dudes: a point, a wing and a big. Who are you taking 1-5?
Norlander: This made me think. And while the top five for me is different from our top five, it would really start to look different if we expanded to our top 10, because teams like Wichita State, Duke, Iowa State and Gonzaga aren’t super strong at all three levels.
- Kentucky with Tyler Ulis, Alex Poythress and Skal Labissiere. You could sub in Isaiah Briscoe or Jamal Murray for Ulis and still probably keep UK No. 1. I’d go Murray in for Poythress, but we need to fulfill that wing spot.
- UNC with Marcus Paige, Justin Jackson and Brice Johnson. I can’t go UNC at the top because I don’t think Marcus Paige is a top-three point guard in college hoops, and I don’t think Brice Johnson is a top-three big man. But I do like Johnson more than Meeks.
- Maryland with Melo Trimble, Jake Layman and Diamond Stone. I know there is a logical choice to go with Robert Carter over Diamond Stone, but in 3-on-3, I’m going with the taller guy with more natural talent.
- Cal with Tyrone Wallace, Jaylen Brown and Ivan Rabb. Two of the three are freshman, but basically a matchup nightmare in a 3-on-3 scenario. Wallace is 6-foot-5 and a combo guard, but absolutely can/does play point.
- Villanova with Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart and Daniel Ochefu. Totally love Nova in this spot. Ochefu’s a big boy, and just wait and see how enjoyable/good Brunson is this season.
Vecenie: Yeah, I agree with Norlander on who No. 1 would be. Kentucky is the pick, but there’s no way I’m not taking the guy who could arguably be the top 1-on-1 player in the entire country in Jamal Murray. Give me Briscoe, Murray and Skal (sorry Ulis, you run a real team better than a 3-on-3 team with more space to attack). Murray counts as a wing as he’s going to play a lot off-ball this season. No. 2 for me would be Iowa State. Monte Morris, Georges Niang and Jameel McKay. McKay is an awesome athlete who can guard just about anyone, and Morris and Niang provide the requisite skill and I’m looking for in a wide open game. Niang’s defense does scare me a bit here though in the open space of 3-on-3. No. 3: Cal is my pick.
All of Wallace, Brown and Rabb can switch and defend the other’s players, plus they’re terrific on offense. I like this sort of positionless lineup. No. 4: Maryland works here. Trimble, Layman and Carter, for me personally. There are way more efficient shots than post-ups in a 3-on-3 game, which is why I’m taking Carter. No. 5: Give me Duke. Grayson Allen, Luke Kennard and Brandon Ingram. At 6-9 with a crazy long wingspan, Ingram should provide just enough of a presence to where there are no inside issues. Plus, Allen is another player that would be awesome in a setting like this where his aggressiveness and athleticism would be on full display. He and Kennard will likely play the point at different points this year.
Parrish: You guys have this just about covered. And, yeah, Kentucky is the obvious No. 1 with either point guard, either wing and Skal Labissiere in the middle. Loaded roster. That’s why the Wildcats might really make the Final Four for the fifth time in six seasons. I’d go Iowa State No. 2 with the same lineup Vecenie suggested, Maryland No. 3 with the same lineup both of you suggested, Cal at No. 4 with the same lineup both of you suggested, and, just to mix it up, I’ll go with Connecticut at No 5. Sterling Gibbs-Daniel Hamilton-Amida Brimah seems like the type of lineup that would work. Two scorers. Good size on the wing. And the best shot-blocker in college basketball.