Sunday, May 27, 2007

Tournament hardly all-star

With no players committed to Duke or North Carolina and just one N.C. State commitment in the field, the Reebok Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions didn’t have as much star power as in the past few years.
The class of 2008 also lacks a marquee name such as Greg Oden, Kevin Love and O.J. Mayo, who added excitement to the tournament in recent years. Watching the class of 2008 helps you appreciate the college freshman class from last season, which was headlined by Oden, Kevin Durant and Brandan Wright.
Veteran talent analysts said it might have been the best freshman class ever. The class of 2008 won’t share that distinction. There still were a lot of interesting players from a Carolinas perspective at the Tournament of Champions:
-- Tyler Zeller of Washington, Ind., was most valuable player for leading Indiana Elite to the title and picked up a scholarship offer from North Carolina.
-- Elliot Williams of Collierville, Tenn., has a scholarship offer from Duke and is an explosive scorer off the drive.
-- Forward Romero Osby of the Southeast Elite is a slashing driver who has received phone calls from North Carolina but no scholarship offer. He also has received interest from several other top schools.
But there wasn’t a player in the tournament who appeared certain of being an NBA lottery pick after one year of college.
EYE ON THE REFS: Charlotte’s Jamie Luckie, who referees in the ACC and Big East, supervised officials at the Tournament of Champions.
The tournament and the elite summer camps provide an opportunity for young referees to work and get instruction from more experienced officials.
Speaking of officiating, two new rules will have opposite effects for college basketball referees in 2007-08:
-- Eliminating one position on each side of the lane on free throws will make it easier to enforce rules against the pushing and shoving that occurs on rebounds.
-- Moving the 3-point arc back one foot will cause problems because the women’s arc stayed at 19 feet, 9 inches. Some courts will have those two arcs plus the NBA arc, and that will cause a problem for referees.
-- Ken Tysiac

Saturday, May 26, 2007

AAU team was loaded with talent in 2004

The NBA draft in June will demonstrate the amazing talent collected on the Spiece Indy Heat team that won the 2004 Tournament of Champions.
There could be four first-round picks from that team:
- Greg Oden, who could be the No. 1 pick after leading Ohio State to the NCAA title game.
- Josh McRoberts, the former No. 1 player in his high school class who spent two years at Duke.
- Mike Conley, Oden’s Lawrence North High and Ohio State teammate from Indianapolis who might be the first point guard drafted.
- Daequan Cook, who committed to Ohio State before Conley and Oden.
A fifth player from that Spiece team, Eric Gordon, will be one of the top freshman guards in the nation at Indiana this season and should be a lottery pick whenever he decides to enter the draft.
That’s quite a lineup for one AAU team. Spiece is back at this year’s tournament with another Oden (Greg’s 6-foot-9 brother, Anthony). But there’s probably not a player on this year’s Spiece team who could have started for the 2004 team.

- Tyler Zeller, the 7-foot-2 Indiana Elite center offered a scholarship by North Carolina on Friday, is pursuing a different summer development strategy than his older brother.
Luke Zeller, who plays for Notre Dame, didn’t play AAU basketball during the summer before his senior year. Luke preferred to go through drills on his own.
“I just like getting out and playing more,” Tyler said. “He wanted to do more individual work ... I do that during the week and then play on the weekends.”

- Picture this Charlotte Royals 16-and-under player in your mind.
He’s six inches taller than his father, who played 14 NBA seasons. You’re picturing a big guy, right?
Now picture Muggsy Bogues’ son, Tyrone Jr. Changes everything, doesn’t it?
Tyrone is a 5-9 guard for the Royals.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, May 25, 2007

Reebok Bob Gibbons Tournament

Observations from Friday’s opening night of the Reebok Bob Gibbons Tournament of Champions AAU event:

The Atlanta Celtics aren’t as gifted as the 2003 version that had Dwight Howard, Josh Smith and Randolph Morris on the front line.
But the Celtics may have the best trio of big men in the tournament. Howard Tompkins, a 6-foot-10 rising senior, recently committed to Georgia. Chris Singleton is 6-9 and also a top prospect in the rising senior class.

Rising junior Derrick Favors might be the best of the three at 6-9. On consecutive possessions in a blowout victory Friday night, he grabbed a rebound and crossed under the basket for a reverse dunk, then made a 15-foot jumper while getting fouled.

“I’m still working on my jump shot,” Favors said.
If he improves that, he should retain his status as one of the five top players in his class.

Southeast Elite forward Romero Osby of Meridian, Miss., probably will get interest from elite schools but needs to play better to be certain of big-time scholarship offers. Osby is a broad-shouldered, 6-foot-8 and 235 pounds. He is strong in the post but needs to run the floor a bit better and become more versatile to be a top-25 prospect.

The two-time defending champion Southern California All-Stars appeared uninspired during their tournament-opening defeat.
The team has the nation’s top point guard, Brandon Jennings, who committed to Arizona last week. But he’s not surrounded by tremendous talent as he was last year, when Kevin Love, Taylor King and Renardo Sidney combined on what veteran summer circuit junkies say was one of the best AAU teams ever. – Ken Tysiac

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Coaching royalty at the ACC meetings

Covering the ACC spring meetings isn’t as glamorous as it sounds.

Reporters spend most of their time perched outside hotel conference rooms, waiting for coaches and athletics directors to sprint past, trying to avoid doing interviews after they finish their meetings.

But it can be fascinating to watch powerful college athletics figures interact in the hallways of the Ritz-Carlton resort at Amelia Island, Fla.

During a break Tuesday morning, Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski ran into Florida State football coach Bobby Bowden. Between them, they have won five national championships.

Krzyzewski initiated the conversation, talking about his alma mater, Army, where he also coached before he was hired at Duke.
“The biggest fan of yours is the superintendent at West Point,” said Krzyzewski, who was there a few weeks ago.

Bowden explained that Franklin L. “Buster” Hagenback, now a lieutenant general, coached on his staff at Florida State. Bowden slapped Krzyzewski on the back, thanked him for mentioning Hagenback and said he would like to visit West Point some time.

Krzyzewski made it sound like Bowden will be treated like royalty if he does visit.

“Everywhere (Hagenback) goes, he talks about you in the most positive light,” Krzyzewski said.

– Ken Tysiac

Thursday, May 10, 2007

ACC basketball coaches should discuss struggles

When the ACC men’s basketball coaches convene next week at the league meetings in Amelia Island, Fla., expanding the NCAA tournament is certain to be discussed.

Some ACC coaches favor at least adding more play-in games to the current 65-team format, because they believe good teams are being left out.

“Do you think that giving the student-athlete a chance to play in the NCAA tournament enhances his college experience?” Virginia Tech’s Seth Greenberg asked recently.

Yes, was the reply.

“So why wouldn’t you try to create a format that gives more deserving teams – I’m not saying teams that aren’t deserving – a chance to have that experience?”

The coaches also ought to examine an issue that might make them squeamish. They need to discuss why the ACC teams that do get to the tournament are struggling.

For the first time since 1979-80, no ACC team has reached the Final Four in consecutive years. In 2006, no ACC team even advanced to a regional final.

The conference’s .542 winning percentage in the NCAA tournament over the last two years is its lowest for a two-year period since 1996-97.

The coaches know the league best and are most qualified to analyze the reasons for these shortcomings. Here are some suggestions:

- Recruit better shooters. Florida ranked 15th in 2006 and ninth in 2007 in Division I in 3-point percentage and won two NCAA titles. The ACC didn’t have a team ranked in the top 25 in 3-point percentage in either season.

- Emphasize the halfcourt game. Florida was about the only team to reach the Final Four the last two seasons that wasn’t primarily a halfcourt team. UCLA (with two trips to the Final Four), Ohio State, Georgetown, LSU and George Mason all were particularly strong defensively in the halfcourt.

- Find a way to anticipate officiating. It’s become almost a cliché that the NCAA tournament is officiated differently from the regular season. Why not ask officiating coordinator John Clougherty to get league games called in such a way that ACC teams will be prepared?

The troubling thing for the ACC is that only North Carolina appears to be a serious Final Four contender next season, especially if Georgia Tech’s Thaddeus Young and Javaris Crittenton don’t withdraw from the NBA draft.

ACC coaches always talk publicly about how great their league is. But with the league struggling in the NCAA tournament, it’s time for them to talk privately, at least, about what they need to do better.

- Ken Tysiac

Friday, May 4, 2007

Time has come to move 3-point arc

After the NCAA championship game, Florida coach Billy Donovan put to rest any doubt that the collegiate 3-point arc needed to be moved back.

“I wanted them to try to beat us with two-point shots,” Donovan said after Florida defeated Ohio State 84-75 on April 2 to win the NCAA title.

In other words, the game had become so unbalanced that Donovan devoted most of his defensive attention to the Ohio State perimeter shooters behind the 3-point arc. Donovan was willing to let Greg Oden, Ohio State’s brilliant 7-foot freshman center, obliterate Florida’s man-to-man defense in the post without double teaming him.

Oden scored 25 points and shot 10-for-15 from the field. But the Gators won because they held Ohio State to 4-for-23 from 3-point range and made 10 3-pointers of their own.

The imposing front line of Al Horford and Joakim Noah played a huge role in Florida’s two straight titles, but were badly outplayed by Oden in their finale. What Florida possessed and Ohio State couldn’t match was Lee Humphrey, the most prolific 3-point shooter in NCAA tournament history.

For the first time, 3-point shots in 2006-07 accounted for more than a third of Division I field goal attempts (34 percent). With players making 35 percent of their 3-point attempts, the 19-foot, 9-inch arc was skewing the game too far toward the perimeter and away from the post.
If the playing rules oversight panel approves the recommended new arc at 20 feet, 9 inches, the post game should become more of a factor again in 2008-09.

Center Tyler Hansbrough and North Carolina would have benefited if the rule were imposed immediately. The new arc presumably would create more space for Hansbrough to roam the lane and dominate in his junior season.

But Hansbrough will have to come back as a senior to enjoy the benefit of this rule. And the Tar Heels – whose mediocre 3-point shooting cost them in their East Regional final loss to Georgetown – must try again to get to the Final Four with a post-dominated attack in a sport that will be tilted toward the short 3-point arc for one more season.

– Ken Tysiac

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

ACC underclassmen: Rating their draft prospects

The NBA draft is all about underclassmen.’s current mock draft doesn’t project any seniors in the top 10 and predicts that freshmen Greg Oden, Kevin Durant and Brandan Wright will be the first three picks.

But plenty of underclassmen who have entered this draft ought to preserve their college eligibility by avoiding signing with an agent, and withdrawing from the draft by the May 28 deadline.

Here’s a look at how ACC underclassmen who have announced they’ve entered the draft stack up:

Slam Dunks

Brandan Wright, North Carolina, freshman: Should be a top-five selection because of his 7-foot-5 wingspan and ability to run the court.

Hit Or Miss

Thaddeus Young, Georgia Tech, freshman:
Skilled 3-point shooting forward should be a first-round pick, but wasn’t as good as advertised in his freshman year.

Javaris Crittenton, Georgia Tech, freshman: Likely first-rounder whose stock could rise because at 6-foot-4 he is the tallest point guard in a draft without many top prospects at that position.

Josh McRoberts, Duke, sophomore: Could be drafted in the mid to low first round. That should put him on a good team with established players and allow his complementary ball handling and passing skills to blossom.

Air Balls

Sean Singletary, Virginia, junior:
He’s a fantastic college point guard, but he’s only 5-11. He’s probably a late second-round pick, so going back to school to earn his degree would make sense.

James Mays, Clemson, junior: There aren’t many better defensive forwards in the draft. But Mays isn’t much of a scorer and risks going undrafted. He’s better off returning to school.

- Ken Tysiac