May 1, 2008
Rivals.com College Basketball Editor
Yes, preseason rankings are folly.
But they're fun, too. Even the people who decry them sure seem to pay them a lot of attention.
Wednesday, Rivals.com revealed its post-NBA early-entry preseason top 25. It's the most unsure I've ever been about a set of our rankings. Our track record shows we've been reasonably good with these things (our top four teams in last year's preseason poll composed the Final Four), but this year, it's tough stuff.
Tyreke Evans could help Memphis fans forget about Derrick Rose's early departure.
What's making it so tough? I can pinpoint one big reason that makes No. 1 nearly impossible to discern: So many programs are in limbo at the "1."
Look around the country at the elite programs that would have been considered for No. 1. They all face questions at point guard should these players keep their names in the NBA Draft. North Carolina? Ty Lawson might be leaving. Texas? D.J. Augustin is in the draft, too. Sleeper Gonzaga? Not without Jeremy Pargo.
Memphis and Arizona will be looking to replace freshman phenoms at the point. Mississippi State, which gave Memphis all it wanted in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, must forge ahead without Jamont Gordon.
It's a scary proposition to break in a first-year starter at the point. Seven of the Elite Eight teams this past season had returning starters at the point. Only Memphis – with five-star prospect Derrick Rose – had an unrecognizable face handling the ball.
Here's a quick look at the guys who must step in at the "1" for the aforementioned programs if their incumbent starting point guards don't stay in school:
North Carolina: Bobby Frasor or Larry Drew. Frasor suffered a torn ACL on Dec. 27 against Nevada that put him out for the season. He was averaging 3.2 points and 2.1 assists in 16.3 minutes per game. He has played in only 40 of the Tar Heels' 78 games the past two seasons. Can he come back at 100 percent and stay healthy? Drew is a Rivals.com four-star prospect ranked No. 10 among point guards and No. 71 overall nationally. Our scouts say he's a real floor general and an excellent spot-up 3-point shooter, but no one will confuse his athleticism for that of Lawson's.
Texas: Dogus Balbay or Justin Mason. Balbay, a native of Turkey, has a big upside. In international competition, he has wowed scouts with his athleticism and bounce and ability to score in the lane. Mason, a rising junior, averaged 7.1 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists in 32.8 minutes per game last season starting alongside Augustin and A.J. Abrams. Mason also was an All-Big 12 defensive team selection.
Gonzaga: Demetri Goodson. The three-star prospect from Klein, Texas, is ranked 27th among point guards by Rivals.com and No. 133 overall. He's 5 feet 11 and 180 pounds, quick with the ball and physical for his size, not unlike Pargo. But is he ready to step in and give the Bulldogs 30-plus minutes and 12.1 points per game like his predecessor?
Memphis: Tyreke Evans. It's a little unfair to say he'll step into Rose's shoes and the Tigers won't miss a beat, but Evans is a Rivals five-star prospect with similar size as Rose (6-5, 205 to Rose's 6-3, 200) and a similar skill set. He's the No. 3 point guard in the 2008 class, and the No. 6 player overall.
Arizona: Brandon Jennings. As with Memphis, the Wildcats lose one five-star player in Jerryd Bayless and plug in another five-star player at the same position. Jennings (6-0, 170) is wholly different than Bayless, though. He doesn't have the same build as his predecessor (6-3, 200), but he may step in and be the fastest player with the ball in college. He gets into the lane, is great at making tough shots and may distribute more than Bayless.
Mississippi State: Antiquawn Beckham. Beckham is a three-star prospect who spent last season in prep school after finishing up at Louisville (Ky.) Ballard. He's 6-5, long and lean. He's physical and good with the ball. Beckham won't be quite the scorer Gordon was, but he has nice size for the position.
IRISH GET JUMP ON 2009-10 CLASS
Ben Hansbrough is headed to Notre Dame.
Mississippi State transfer Ben Hansbrough, the younger brother of North Carolina forward Tyler Hansbrough, has chosen to continue his career with Notre Dame.
Hansbrough, a 6-3 guard, averaged 10.5 points as a sophomore this past season. He hit 62 3-pointers to tie for the team lead, and he shot a respectable 35.8 percent from long distance after topping the 40-percent mark as a freshman. He'll have two years' eligibility remaining when he returns to the court in 2009-10 after sitting out a year, as required by NCAA rules.
Under Mike Brey, Notre Dame has been one of the nation's top 3-point shooting teams, ranking among the top 35 in 3-pointers per game in each of the past six seasons.
The younger Hansbrough said he chose the Fighting Irish over Purdue and Oklahoma State. "They have a great style that I feel I can flourish in," he told The Associated Press. "They have a great team and it's a great school."
Notre Dame hasn't made it a practice to take in a lot of transfers. In fact, Hansbrough is just the fourth since 1999. But he could be joined by a fifth in 2009-10. Purdue transfer Scott Martin, who averaged 8.5 points and 3.8 rebounds as a freshman last season, is scheduled to visit South Bend next week.
Ben's new team could play his older brother's team in November at the Maui Invitational. Notre Dame and North Carolina are in a star-studded eight-team field that also includes Indiana with new coach Tom Crean and Texas.
SUNSHINE STATE ASSISTANTS LINE UP FOR FAU JOB
Several of the contenders to replace Rex Walters at Florida Atlantic are assistants from around the state. FAU, which is in Boca Raton, recently has begun to interview candidates. Walters, who was 31-33 in two seasons, was introduced as the new coach at San Francisco on April 15.
Florida State's Stan Jones, South Florida's Dan Hipsher and Miami's Jorge Fernandez have expressed interest in the job, and FAU assistant Mike Balado expects to get an interview.
Former St. John's coach Mike Jarvis also could be in the mix, and Georgia Southern coach Jeff Price is expected to interview. Price, who previously coached at Lynn University in Boca Raton, was a finalist three years ago when Walters got the nod. GSU athletic director Sam Baker confirmed Wednesday that FAU had asked for and received permission to talk to Price.
"I've never stood in the way of a coach trying to in their mind move up in their career," Baker told Rivals.com.
With most coaching jobs this offseason already filled or at least candidates identified, Georgia Southern really would be behind the 8-ball if it lost its coach.
"Sure, anytime you lose a coach at this point in the season, it would be pressure," Baker said. "If it's what's best for Jeff, we wish him well, but we certainly don't want him to leave. He has done a great job here and we want to continue building on what he has done."
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