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November 12, 2007
Back and Forth
Tip-Off Weekend

by John Gasaway and Ken Pomeroy

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JOHN: Yo, hoops nation! Ken and John here, giddy and groggy just like you. Our long national nightmare is over--it's time to hoop it up, and not a minute too soon. No longer will our sports coverage be held captive by the Biggest College Football Upset Ever happening like clockwork every week. It's time to talk about the good stuff. Ken, where do we begin?

KEN: We begin with a complaint, John. In a way, the nightmare continues, due to the lack of nationally televised games. This almost feels like the '80s, having to hear third-hand about O.J. Mayo's debut in a half-filled gym thousands of miles away.

JOHN: Dude, it sounds like your grasp of TV options is what's in the '80s here. Cough up the 50 scoots and acquire one of the many fine season-long "premium" programming options. For instance right now I'm keeping an eye on Kansas and UMKC. Getting back to Mayo, though...how 'bout that kid?

KEN: To me, the score--USC lost to Mercer, 96-81--is the least relevant aspect of the game. The fact that Mayo scored 32 points while taking 27 shots and committing eight turnovers is the key.

JOHN: I saw one wire story saying that Mayo "went off" for 32 points. Went off? He shot 27 times! It'd be much more accurate to say James Florence "went off" for 30 for Mercer. The only thing that went off for USC must have been the coach. Hey, Coach Floyd! Hold the Mayo! Oh, that's classic. I'll bet I'm the first to ever come up with that gem. Anyway, Floyd should have the Trojans doing some old-school defensive drills this week. His team gave up 96 points in 81 possessions. The Bears made almost 70 percent of their twos. Ye gods.

KEN: You know, Mayo used about 35 percent of USC's possessions. If he keeps that up, it probably precludes USC from being a top-10 team. Not too many great teams rely on one player that much.

JOHN: While we're on the left coast, kudos to Stanford. Over their first two games they scored 1.4 points per possession, meaning they could've beaten the Spurs. Or even Chuck Norris. Looks like they came back down to earth last night, though. I haven't seen the box score, but they scored a mere 67 points in beating UC Santa Barbara. Quit while you're ahead, Cardinal!

KEN: Well, Stanford hasn't exactly played the most formidable opponents yet. Still, winning convincingly with one Lopez is a nice sign. Now, back to Mayo for a second. Contrast his game with what Michael Beasley did today for Kansas State: 30 points, 14 boards, 12-for-19 shooting and 5-for-7 from the line. K-State may have been taken down by Division II Pittsburg State were it not for that effort.

JOHN: Yes, Beasley was impressive. Forget the 32 points against Sacramento State. Getting 24 rebounds in 31 minutes is, uh, pretty good.

KEN: Anything non-freshman-related catch your eye?

JOHN: Nice line from Kyle Hines of UNC-Greensboro in their win at Georgia Tech. If anybody "went off" it was last year's SoCon Player of the Year, to the tune of 25 points on just 12 shots to go along with nine boards. Hines' coach, Mike DeMent, says his senior's getting interest from "the next level." With performances like these it's easy to see why.

KEN: A reporter covering a SoCon school laughed at me last year when I said Hines would float his name in the draft before this season. Hines proved he'll at least get some interest. His size (6'6") is a killer for someone who basically plays the four or the five all the time. Even so, he does a lot of things extremely well. Doing them against Tech should be a real eye-opener for people.

JOHN: Two words for those who would doubt undersized obscurities: Brian Cardinal. Pride of Tolono, Ill.

KEN: Yeah, but Hines has to work on his flopping ability to be mentioned in the same breath as Cardinal.

JOHN: Speaking of flopping, Dan Monson lost his debut as head coach of Long Beach State by 40 to BYU. At home. Ouch.

KEN: You have to wonder how Monson is going to do there. There's no need to panic after one game, or even one year, but if Tubby Smith somehow turns Minnesota into a competitive team this season, I think you have to question if Monson is going to bring instant success to the Beach.

JOHN: Instant change is rare. For instance: I keep reading about how the sassy new post-Aaron Gray Pitt is going to go up-tempo. I'm not so sure. I'll be very surprised if Pitt averages more than 65 possessions per 40 in the Big East. By the way, I caught a little of their game this evening against St. Louis. Have you seen Rick Majerus? He's looking rather svelte! I thought it was Hayden Panettiere at first. Seriously, he looks good.

KEN: Typically coaches don't change their stripes so easily. Ben Howland did it during his second year at UCLA--when he had to go small, he played faster. So it can be done. Since we're focused on new coaches, did you get wind of Friday's game between New Mexico and Colorado?

JOHN: The marquee coaching matchup of the weekend: Steve Alford vs. Jeff Bzdelik. CU dropped the home game. New Mexico is better than a lot of teams the Buffaloes will play in the next couple of weeks but, still, it's going to be a tough first year for Bzdelik.

KEN: I was particularly intrigued by the fact that J.R. Giddens and Richard Roby combined for five points! They averaged a combined 33 last season. They probably both had their low games of the season in that one. Contrasting the futures of Alford and Bzdelik is fascinating too. Alford will have better resources, but to me, Bzdelik is a better program leader. It will be interesting to see how that pans out in about five years.

JOHN: Then there are the schools that export program leaders. I'm thinking of Tulsa, which got spanked on a neutral floor by Hampton. I didn't think the Golden Hurricane would challenge Memphis in the C-USA or anything, but that was a surprise. It probably surprised Doug Wojcik, too.

KEN: Yeah, I'm probably like most people in that I put Izzo disciples on a pedestal. I don't put too much stock in one game but, like Kentucky's debacle, when you lose big it tends to raise eyebrows. The Golden Hurricane is on notice.

JOHN: Cool, on notice! The returning player most disrupted by a coaching change. I'll go with Ekpe Udoh of Michigan. The feisty sophomore shot-blocker waited patiently last year for listless cipher Courtney Sims to cycle through to an NBA bench. Now that Sims and his ennui watch the Pacers for free, Udoh figured to move up to the starting lineup. But newly arrived Rutgers transfer and onetime who-dat Zack Gibson is the one who's starting now. Meanwhile Udoh is coming off the bench and playing a really uncomfortable-looking middle guy in the "3" of John Beilein's 1-3-1 defense. Not the best setup for a shot-blocker. Nor does Udoh have the perimeter skills that Beilein has traditionally looked for from his big men.

KEN: Well, I think Michigan fans have to be pleasantly surprised by the Wolverines start. This is one case where beating up on cupcakes has significance. With that, I am off to call my local cable company and inquire about this "sports programming" concept and how it might help me.

JOHN: Folks, Ken's pulled on his sleeping cap and he's got his copy of Yesss! I Mean No: The Billy Donovan Story as Told to Dana Altman tucked under his arm. I think it's a hint. Sweet dreams, Ken.

KEN: And to all a hoops night.

John Gasaway is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact John by clicking here or click here to see John's other articles.
Ken Pomeroy is an author of Basketball Prospectus. You can contact Ken by clicking here or click here to see Ken's other articles.

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