I really looked forward to broadcasting the Marquette-Ohio State game on the retired USS Yorktown in Charleston, South Carolina. Last year’s game on the USS Carl Vinson left me awestruck. Walking up five flights to the basketball court was exciting as was halting the game to lower the flag as the sun set and watching President Obama honor our troops. This was truly a special day.
So you can imagine the disappointment when last Friday’s game was cancelled due to excessive condensation on the court that made the floor slippery and unsafe for the players. Still, even though the game didn’t happen, it was fun to see the players of both teams stay on the court afterwords to take pictures, sign autographs and mingle with the military. Also, they did have the two days leading up to the game which was extremely meaningful and fun. I am trying not to join the army of people publicly questioning why the problem of condensation was not given greater consideration. But I have to say it should have been anticipated. Last year, there was a plan to play below on another floor in the event of any weather problems. Hopefully the problem can be resolved because it is such a wonderful event and offers much for all involved.
See you in Atlanta?
Let’s get my Final Four picks out of the way right off the bat. I am going with the obvious in Louisville and Indiana. Everyone loves these two teams and their coaches, and both of them have a great chance to be the overall top seed when the field is announced on Selection Sunday. Next, give me Syracuse, which will rack up a bunch of home wins playing in front of amazing crowds all year. And finally… my good friend Lute Olson is going to be happy this year. Sean Miller is taking Arizona back to the Final Four for the first time since the turn of century. Sean has as much experienced depth as anyone in the nation and I predict they will go undefeated at home. But here is why I think they will be outstanding… adding a one-year transfer in Mark Lyons was big-time. Yes, the kid is good. Yes, he will do a great job in running the show. But the beauty of this is that he HAS to buy in. He can’t worry about playing time. He has six months to have an amazing year. Getting Mark Lyons could mean Arizona is in Atlanta come April.
Big seven of Ten
The Big Ten will get at least seven teams in the NCAA Tournament, and unlike football, all its team are eligible. I am really excited to see Michigan return to the preseason Associated Press top 10. Despite all the stories, I am a Michigan man, having spent 21 years in Ann Arbor and earning two degrees there and playing a part in building the 1989 NCAA championship team. I love what John Beilein is building and sustaining. Indiana, as stated earlier, is back and has great players at every position including my Player of the Year, Cody Zeller.
Want the most improved conference? Go West, young man… to the Pac-12. I think UCLA, USC, Arizona, Stanford and Cal all are very good picks to make the NCAAs, while Colorado and Washington have a shot thanks to their fantastic home courts. Colorado sold out its home opener against Wofford. Think about that! And the teams picked at the bottom like Arizona State, Oregon and Oregon State all will be much better. Shabazz Muhammad being declared ineligible isn’t great for UCLA, but I think they’ll cope.
A new Devil went down to Tempe
Quick: name me a former NBA head coach who is now an NCAA assistant? The college game welcomes Eric Musselman, who has joined Herb Sendek’s staff at Arizona State. Here’s a guy who brings 747 games of professional head coaching experience to the table. Digest that. Those 747 games come in a bunch of leagues, including three seasons at the helm of the Warriors and Kings in the NBA. Sendek wants to push the pace this year with speedy Jahii Carson and Coach Muss will be a great addition.
Others to watch
Finally let me give you some good teams outside the major conferences to keep an eye on that others might not be talking about, starting with Saint Louis, coached by Jim Crews. Be on the lookout for Ohio with D.J. Cooper and Colorado State with head coach Larry Eustachy. San Diego State and UNLV are both looking good too. Lehigh (C.J. McCollum), Murray State (Isaiah Canaan) and Creighton (Doug McDermott) all have preseason All-Americans. Unlike college football, this is a game for everyone, as Butler and VCU proved recently. And you know what is great? Brad Stevens and Shaka Smart are still coaching at those schools. That is great for the little guys!
I’m really looking forward to the season – and the blog! Thanks for reading and check back next week.
– Bill Frieder
Former Michigan and Arizona State head coach Bill Frieder is an analyst for Westwood One’s coverage of NCAA Basketball. In his weekly blog Boxed Out, Bill scours the box scores to bring you interesting stories from the world of college basketball.