Friday, October 25, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Expectations for Derrick Rose

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

Can Derrick Rose rise to expectations in 2013-14? (Peter G. Aiken/USA Today Sports)

This week's question: Derrick Rose has finally returned to the court for the Chicago Bulls. What will the expectations be of him this season?

This is the rare occasion in which what expectations will be and what expectations should be are identical. Derrick Rose sat on the Chicago Bulls' bench in dress clothes for more than one season, including playoff games, and now the expectations are high as he's decided he's ready to return to the court. Rose has been under a magnifying glass since injuring his knee in the 2012 playoffs, with the media cycle focusing on when he would be ready for action and the heat intensifying after he was declared ready to play by team doctors and chose to continue riding pine under the banner of not being mentally ready.

Rose's 26-point performance against the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday raised expectations even more. Even if it was just a preseason game, Rose managed to eclipse his career scoring average while notching six assists and four rebounds in 35 minutes. While he also committed five turnovers, those will be forgiven because the play-making and scoring are what grab attention. The extra time Rose took to rehab his injury and get his mind right allowed him to foster confidence in his ability to make the moves required of a point guard who utilizes cuts and explosiveness to do nearly everything. That's what allowed him to put up a Rose-routine stat line, as he made his way to the free throw line five times and sunk 10-of-10 gimmes. The more eye-popping statistic -- and what should be a precursor of things to come, according to Jeremy Bauman of Sheridan Hoops -- is Rose's 50 percent shooting from three. For a player hitting 31 percent of long range attempts on his career, going for 4-8 would typically be considered an anomaly, but Bauman notes that players returning from severe knee injuries tend to come back as better shooters. If this holds true and Rose is as healthy as he looks, Chicago's latest savior enters 2013-14 with an expanded arsenal that could not only meet expectations, but demolish them.

The expectations are always going to be high when the player is seen as the face of a franchise as Derrick Rose is with the Chicago Bulls. If Rose would have come back at some point last year, he would have been cut some slack. Maybe it was too soon? At least he's out there competing. Now it's been over a year and a pile of criticism has rained on Rose for not playing in last-season's playoffs when many thought he was ready. The expectations are even higher now that Rose put up 26 points in the Bulls' preseason game Wednesday against the Thunder.

I expect Rose to be back to the form that made him an elite player by the end of the year. These first games will be telling of what point that elite player returns. Ask any player who has suffered a major knee or leg injury and if they say they weren't cautious or terrified of contact or the normal cuts and jumping when they first return, they are liars. Rose's performance all depends on how quickly he can overcome the fear of re-injuring the knee and get back to confidently cutting and taking the ball into traffic. Wednesday was a good start and if that performance was any indication, expectations should be high for Rose this season. 

Typically with players coming off an ACL surgery, I’m hesitant to have too many expectations for the following season. However, Derrick Rose isn’t a typical player. Last season, Rose was physically cleared in time to finish the season and play in the playoffs. For some reason, though, Rose elected not to suit up and take the court. Many analysts and fans (myself included) speculated Rose was not mentally ready to push himself to 100 percent. While this may have had some truth to it, ultra-competitive superstars (such as Rose) don’t appreciate hearing their motivation and toughness questioned by spectators. The Chicago Bulls made a heck of a showing in the playoffs, knocking off the Brooklyn Nets in the first round, before falling to the eventual champions in the Miami Heat in the second round. Even though the Bulls fell in five games to Miami, they gave the Heat all they could handle physically. The one thing they lacked was a player who could take over a game and get the tough baskets. 

Rose is primed and ready, after having had the time to heal physically, and is motivated to prove the nation wrong about his mental toughness. I expect Rose to be the same player we were used to seeing before he was injured: a game changer who puts up 25 points and eight to 10 assists per game. With Rose back in full force, I think the Bulls are legitimate contenders to unseat the Heat as champions of the East and the NBA.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Pac 12 Preview: Aaron Gordon, Arizona Clear Favorites

The long wait will soon be over when the first full slate of NCAA basketball games of the 2013-14 season will tip-off on Nov. 8. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

Arizona freshmen Rondae Hollis-Jefferson (left) and Aaron Gordon (right) look to make a splash in the Pac-12 this season. (

Favorite: Arizona
Sean Miller's club is the clear favorite, receiving 21 of 23 first-place votes from the Pac-12 media. The Wildcats lost their top two scores from last season in Mark Lyons and Solomon Hill, but part of Arizona's perceived success lies in the arrival of hyped freshman Aaron Gordon, the No. 4-ranked player in the ESPN 100 rankings. Arizona also has another McDonald's All-American in Rondae Hollis-Jefferson to compliment Gordon, as well as guard Nick Johnson, who averaged 11.5 points per game last season, and 7-foot sophomore Kaleb Tarczewski. This Wildcats team will be fairly young but loaded with talent that should be clicking by conference play.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: California
The loss of Allen Crabbe is significant, but if the Golden Bears can patch the scoring hole left by Crabbe, this could be a dangerous team. Seniors Justin Cobbs (15.1 ppg, 4.8 apg) and Richard Solomon (8.9 ppg, 6.8 rpg) will look to make the most out of their senior campaign and will have the help of freshman Jabari Bird, a McDonald's All-American shooting guard and No. 23 player in the ESPN 100. Cal was picked fifth by the Pac-12 media, but the Golden Bears' potential is greater. 

Player of the Year: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
It's tough not to pick the player that has had this much hype surrounding him. He will be the most talked about player in the conference, and has the luxury of playing on what many feel is the conference's best team. Remember this dunk? Gordon has a ton of raw talent and with Lyons and Hill gone, he will have an opening to make his presence known early on.

Coach of the Year: Tad Boyle, Colorado
This was a difficult selection, as Arizona's Sean Miller is always going to be a high candidate and if Steve Alford can turn UCLA around in his first season, it would be tough not to give him the honor. But Alford also has a ton of pressure on him and changing the culture in LA may take a bit more time. That's why I like Colorado's Tad Boyle. The Buffaloes lost Andre Robinson but are returning juniors Spencer Dinwiddle and Askia Booker, who were first and second on the team in scoring with 15.3 and 12.4 ppg respectively. Boyle will have to find someone to crash the boards as well as Robinson, but overall has a talented team that has played together before. Boyle is testing his team early with non-conference games against Baylor, Kansas and Oklahoma State from the Big 12, and the Buffs could be seasoned and balanced enough by January to make a run at the Pac-12. 

Newcomer of the Year: Aaron Gordon, Arizona
I know, I know, this isn't a very original pick, but sometimes the obvious choice is the correct answer. It's difficult to find flaws in his game, and Gordon will get tested early in the season against games versus UNLV and Michigan to get some of the freshman jitters and kinks worked out. It's obviously tough to judge a player who has yet to play a game of college basketball, but Gordon's potential is that he could be a star.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Big Ten Preview: Is It Michigan State's Turn At The Top?

The long wait will soon be over when the first full slate of NCAA basketball games of the 2013-14 season will tip-off on Nov. 8. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

Gary Harris and Michigan State are loaded and ready to reclaim the Big Ten crown. (

Five Big Ten ballers were drafted in June, four went in the first round and three in the lottery. Will the nation's "best conference" defend this imaginary title and send seven teams into the NCAA tourney again? While things appear to be thinner at the top, the depth remains strong and some squads (I'm lookin at you, Hoosiers) may thrive under lower expectations. This year, however, Tom Izzo will be the coach carrying the weight of Final Four expectations.

Favorite: Michigan State
A year after watching Indiana finish first in the regular season, seeing Ohio State win the conference tournament, and (worst of all for Spartans fans) viewing the big brother Wolverines in the national title game, Sparty should have more to cheer about this year as Gary Harris returns for what could be a very memorable sophomore season. The 6'4" guard was second on the team in minutes last year and was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year, but nagging shoulder injuries blunted his effectiveness. Adreian Payne also returns as a top shot blocker with a great free throw stroke and surprising range from the floor. Swingman Branden Dawson, like Harris, is very talented and should break out this year if he can stay healthy. Point guard Keith Appling continued to tease and frustrate Spartan fans with his mercurial shooting and decision-making. In his senior year, will Appling cede to Harris in the backcourt? Izzo will earn his pay if he can smooth everything over and get his team to make the deep run their talent demands.

Dark Horse Team to Watch: Iowa
Ohio State should be nipping at the Spartans' heels all year, but in the spirit of picking an actual dark horse and not a runner-up, I'm going with the Hawkeyes. Coach Fran McCaffery has been rebuilding in Iowa City with an entertaining brand of ball, but it will be a disappointing setback if they don't get into the NCAAs in his fourth season. The NIT runner-up Hawkeyes return all of their key contributors; only seven starts from big man Eric May must be replaced this year. Roy Devyn Marble (yes, that is Roy's kid) had an up-and-down year and was actually benched at times by McCaffery, but he finished on a high note and his ability to get to the line and stretch a defense are crucial for this team. Aaron White is another quality player causing mismatch problems for opposing defenses, and four-star recruit (and 7-footer) Adam Woodbury should start to assert himself more in his sophomore season. The shooting of sophomore guards Mike Gesell and Anthony Clemmens will need to improve for the Hawkeyes to reach their full potential and dance into the Sweet 16 for the first time since Dr. Tom Davis helmed the Hawkeyes in 1999.

Player of the Year: Gary Harris (Michigan State)
Aaron Craft will be your broadcaster choice, but thankfully most of them don't get to vote on anything. Glenn Robinson and Sam Dekker should also contend here. That said, the best player on the best team generally wins this award, and Harris is my prime choice here. Harris has great size for a scoring guard in college, and with his shooting and athletic ability he should be getting to the free throw line much more often this year. As the featured option in the Spartan attack, his points per game should improve quite a bit. It will be interesting to see if he can show more playmaking ability, as nba scouts would be keen to have more examples on tape.

Coach of the Year: Fran McCaffery (Iowa)
In this conference there will always be a lot of qualified candidates who have already won this award, which actually makes it easier for voters to justify giving the nod to a "new guy" in the mix. Iowa is loaded up to take the next step, and McCaffery knows it. A Tuesday night showdown hosting the Spartans on January 28 could be a statement win.

Newcomer of the Year: Derrick Walton (Michigan) 
Replacing the national player of the year is a tall order, but Walton will only be asked to help steer what should still be a prolific offense under coach John Beilein. Mitch McGary, Glenn Robinson and Nik Stauskas will give Walton plenty of passing targets, and the true freshman point guard should show enough 3 point range to keep defenses honest as well.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Friday Roundtable: NBA Owner 1-on-1 Game

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

L-toR: NBA owner, some guy, NBA owner. (

This week's question: Memphis Grizzlies' owner Robert Pera wants to play Michael Jordan in a 1-on-1 owner game for $1 million to go to charity. What 1-on-1 matchup between NBA owners do you most want to watch?

Part of me wants to pit Justin Timberlake (Memphis Grizzlies) and Usher (Cleveland Cavaliers) against one another, but there would only be one winner when it came down to crunch time. In a face-off between New York Knicks owner James Dolan and Cavs majority owner Dan Gilbert, however, everyone is a winner (aside from, you know, whichever one loses). Both have been viewed as bumbling owners of NBA franchises, with Dolan taking flack for hiring Isiah Thomas as Knicks general manager and never anything else, while Gilbert became a famed Comic Sans calligrapher when his organization failed to put serviceable role players around LeBron James for seven seasons before seeing the homegrown talent take flight to Miami. James eventually disproved Gilbert's claim that Cleveland would win a championship before LBJ, who vanquished New York's hopes in the Eastern Conference while in the process of capturing two titles.

The only safe assumption in a Dolan-Gilbert square off is that there would be lots of awkward fumbling, probably some illegal hand-checking and a whole bunch of sweat, but Dolan gets the edge here as he would probably employ a "tickle-the-other-guy's-neck-with-your-beard" defense and either A) steal the ball for a contest-clinching basket as Gilbert pleads, "Come on, man, cut it out! That's going to irritate my skin!" or B) generally just creep out Gilbert and anyone bystanders until Dolan is left alone the court, taking several shots en route to a game-winner.

Maybe I'm wrong, but Michael Jordan doesn't make one of the two spots I most want to see. Yes, he's the best ever but a charity 1-on-1 game between NBA owners is for entertainment, and I want the two most entertaining owners on the court. That's why my match-up is Mark Cuban against Shaq. Remember, Shaq recently became an owner in the Sacramento Kings. Obviously, both would need to be wearing mics because the trash talk and banter would be the best part. Shaq would repeatedly back Cuban into the paint and lay a shoulder into him while going up for a dunk while Cuban screams for a foul and goes nuts like a ref just cost the Mavs a win. The thing that could make this interesting is Cuban looks like he could be sneaky athletic and I'm guessing Shaq hasn't been doing a lot of wind sprints since hanging up the jersey. The game ends with Shaq picking Cuban up so he can dunk it. Who wouldn't want to watch that?

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Mountain West Preview: Replacing NBA Talent

The long wait will soon be over when the first full slate of NCAA basketball games of the 2013-14 season will tip-off on Nov. 8. Some of our favorite players have moved on the ranks of professional athletes, new recruits have been polishing their games in gyms with recognizable logos on the court, and schools have switched conference allegiances. Through a series of conference previews, the BDD crew will do its best to prepare you for the next 4.5 months of collegiate hoops.

New Mexico's Kendall Williams will be the player to watch in the Mountain West this season. (

Favorite: New Mexico
The Mountain West will be an interesting conference to watch this year as many of the top teams lost big-name players to the draft, but will still have firepower to compete for the crown. It could be crowded at the top, with UNLV losing Anthony Bennett but still having lots of talent, and Boise State, whom CBS Sports actually picked to win the conference. New Mexico may have lost Tony Snell, but the Lobos are returning senior Kendall Williams (team-high 13.5 points and five assists last year), who despite not having the recognition of Snell, was the Mountain West Player of the Year a year ago. UNM will also have a strong inside presence with Alex Kirk, a 7-footer who led the team in rebounding with 8.1 boards a game and was third on the team in scoring with 12.1 points per game. Both players were picked on the Mountain West Media Preseason All-Conference Team and could lead the Lobos to a third-straight regular-season conference title.

Darkhorse Team to Watch: Utah State
This is the first season for Utah State in the Mountain West after coming over from the Western Athletic Conference. The Aggies are picked to finish fifth in the conference media preseason poll, but before even looking at the team, Utah State has a weapon in the Dee Glen Smith Spectrum, which has been in the conversation for best home court advantages in college basketball. With this being the Aggies first year in the conference, many of these teams don't have much experience in that atmosphere. Utah State is also led by a talented group of seniors in Preston Medlin, Jarred Shaw and Spencer Butterfield. Medlin led the team in scoring with 16.3 ppg before breaking his wrist midway through the season. Shaw nearly averaged a double-double last year with 14.2 points and 8.4 rebounds and Butterfield also contributed 12.2 ppg and 6.6 rpg. If everyone remains healthy, this could be a dangerous team in conference play.

Player of the Year: Kendall Williams, New Mexico
As mentioned above, Williams was a stats leader for the Lobos even with Tony Snell getting all of the attention. He's the reigning player of the year, so this isn't exactly a going-out-on-a-limb pick, but with Snell gone, this looks to be Williams' team. Williams has proven he can do a little bit of everything, scoring 13.5 points, five assists and 3.5 rebounds per game. It is also easier for a player to win this award when he is at the top of the conference, and that should be the case for New Mexico.

Coach of the Year: Larry Eustachy, Colorado State
The coach of the year award doesn't just necessarily go to the coach of the best team. It can also go to the guy who did the most with little resources. Colorado State has lost nearly all of its resources. All five starters are gone, which means the top five leading scorers are also gone. Eustachy will have two talented freshmen guards in David Cohn and Carlton Hurst to help the team get better, but it is still a difficult task. If Colorado State can find itself in the top four in the conference at the end of the year, with the talent of teams around it, that's a coaching job worthy of coach of the year.

Newcomer of the Year: Christian Wood, UNLV
The Mountain West media writers have Wood's teammate Kendall Smith as the preseason newcomer of the year, but Wood can also be a big factor in the post for the Rebels. Wood was the No. 35-ranked recruit according to Rivals and with the departure of big man Anthony Bennett, Wood's 6-foot-10 frame could help UNLV in the post. 


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Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Andrew Wiggins SI Cover

As if the hype wasn't enough, Sports Illustrated as KU freshman Andrew Wiggins on the cover with Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. (

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: Kansas' Andrew Wiggins is on the newest cover of Sports Illustrated with Wilt Chamberlain and Danny Manning. Is it fair to Wiggins to have him on a cover with two of KU's best and put that level of pressure on him before he's played a collegiate game?

Absolutely, it is fair, although SI's choice to put Andrew Wiggins on the cover is less impactful than it would be if the NBA's one-and-done rule wasn't in place and the young Canadian still chose to play through a year (at least) in the NCAA. As it stands, Wiggins is exactly as important to Kansas as Wilt and Manning were during their respective post-commitment, pre-playing days. Although he likely will not single-handedly dominate or lead the Jayhawks as a freshman, Wiggins' marriage to KU brings the program the credibility that can only be attained by obtaining a No. 1 recruit who happens to be heavily lauded as a once-in-a-generation talent. It's the kind of thing a university's men's hoops team can leverage during scouting trips and home visits for years, even coasting if it so chose -- and head coach Bill Self is not one to coast, as evidenced by the steady stream of excellent ability that flows through the program he commands.

That Wiggins chose Kansas means even more in a landscape in which John Calipari can trot out five freshmen starters at Kentucky each season with expectations for roughly half of his roster to enter the NBA draft. While UK and KU are both tradition-rich programs, Calipari's superb recruiting tactics may have diluted the public's perception of the Wildcats in a way that the Jayhawks and every other collegiate team have escaped by not filling their squads around all-around unproven quantities, whether those programs have the requisite recruiting weight to do so or not. 

Wiggins is one of the few high school players with critical mass-level hype that make it to college without flaming out. By going to Kansas instead of Florida State (another school that made it into his final four choices), Wiggins has hedged his bets against seeing his star dim before becoming a professional. He won't have to carry the Jayhawks like he would have done for the Seminoles. The kid is -- or his parents, or his handlers are -- smart. Wilt towered above and overpowered his opponents; Manning was a four-year KU denizen led a miracle team to a championship; and, when all is said and done, Wiggins won't match either of those profiles, but he will be exactly as important to Kansas' basketball legacy as the two players he shares the SI cover with. Yes, he is worthy of the pressure.

First off, it's important to not get the wrong idea about the cover. SI is making a comparison about freshman hype, yet some may take it as SI is calling Wilt, Manning and now Wiggins the three best freshmen to ever play at KU. Freshmen weren't allowed to play varsity basketball during Wilt's days and Manning scored twice as many points his senior year than he did as a freshman. He was still very good as a freshman (14 points per game), but nothing like by the time he was a senior (24 ppg). But what all three have in common was the hype around getting them to Lawrence. Ben McLemore now owns the freshman scoring record at KU after last year's performance. Even so, people were calling McLemore a bust because of his inconsistency. Wiggins can put up Manning and McLemore-like freshman numbers, but that's not what the cover represents. No one in recent years has been hyped as much as Wiggins. It is an automatic burden he must live with, much like Wilt.

Is it fair? Sure. It wasn't libelous or painting Wiggins in a poor light. But can it be easily taken out of context and in turn throw massive amounts of pressure on the kid? Absolutely. It's one thing to label Wiggins as the best in his class (I'm not going to even get into the LeBron comparisions) but even without saying he will be in the pantheon of Kansas basketball without playing a game, and merely making a comparison of the circus each player drew, is not something that should be placed on his shoulders.

I'm worried about the national attention and analysis of Wiggins. People are expecting Wiggins to put up a performance similar to what Kevin Durant did during his one season at Texas. But here's the biggest difference: Wiggins is both blessed and cursed to have so much talent around him. Durant was able to score so much because he was the guy. Look at the Texas roster from 2006. D.J. Augustin and A.J. Abrams had solid years and ended up as fine college players, but Durant took more than 200 more shots than Abrams and 300 more than Augustin. Durant was the offense.

Now look at what Wiggins has. Wayne Seldon has the potential to be a star; Joel Embiid could be a future No. 1 draft pick if he stays a few years and has had his footwork compared to Hakeem Olajuwon; and some are saying sophomore Perry Ellis still might be the leading scorer on the team. Wiggins will be good. Probably very good. But he won't average 25 points per game because he won't need to. He has so much talent around him to make plays that fans and analysts won't just be able to look at his stat line to know what kind of player he is. He could still have a great impact on the college landscape this year, but be wary of expecting Durant's numbers and don't call him a bust if he averages 16 ppg instead of 24.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Friday Roundtable: Most Underpaid Coaches In College Basketball

Mike Brey has Notre Dame - and one Cincinnati Bengals fan - ready for war. (USO photo by Mike Theiler)

BDD's Friday Roundtable is a weekly discussion among a group of our writers on a trending NBA or college basketball topic.

This week's question: Wichita State coach Gregg Marshall recently got a raise after taking his team to the Final Four, which got us to thinking, who are the most underpaid coaches in college basketball?

Bob McKillop. His name doesn't carry the same swagger as a Bill Self and he doesn't have a well-known nickname like Coach K, but it should spark some memories, at the very least. Like the time McKillop's Davidson team knocked down Gonzaga, Georgetown and Wisconsin on a march to the Elite Eight behind strong team chemistry and the hot hand of Stephen Curry, coming within three points of the Final Four as Kansas outlasted the Wildcats. Or the time, more recently, when McKillop's squad beat Self's Jayhawks in what was essentially a home game for KU (they played in Kansas City), as teamwork and a knack for efficient three-point shooting prevailed against the college all-stars (Thomas Robinson, anyone?) and rich tradition of the eventual national runner-up.

The list goes on, yet McKillop is just the 49th-highest paid coach ($370,618 with no incentives or bonuses) in NCAA hoops, trailing the likes of current Kansas State head coach and Illinois-reject Bruce Weber (No. 25; $1.5 million with $655k available via bonuses) and Cincinnati's Mick Cronin (No. 29; $1,358,900 before $555k in possible bonuses). McKillop has been consistently more successful than both relative to his school and conference affiliation (Southern), taking the Wildcats to seven March Madnesses since 1997-98, including six in the past nine seasons. His brand of basketball isn't flashy and he doesn't attract top-tier recruits, but he develops the right recruits in a system that allows them to play to their strengths without sacrificing team ideals for individual success.

The good people at USA Today ranked the 62 highest-paid college basketball coaches for 2013, and most of the names at the top are no shock to anyone. Yet one that surprised me, because of the conference, success of the program and number of years with the school was Mike Brey of Notre Dame. Brey is the No. 41 highest-paid college basketball coach at $616,843 without any bonus opportunities.

Notre Dame has not been a national title contender much, but the program has always been competitive in the brutal Big East, and considering where the program was before Brey took over, he is a steal for $616,000. Brey came to Notre Dame in 2000-01, and after not making the NCAA Tournament since 1990, Brey has taken the Fighting Irish to the big dance in eight of his 13 years as head coach, including a Sweet 16 appearance in 2003. Notre Dame has also had 20 wins or more in ever season but three during that stretch.

Brey might not be an elite college coach, but when Jay Wright and Travis Ford are making $2.2 million a year and Mike Montgomery at Cal is making a million more than Brey, he has had a lot of success for just over half a million dollars.