Starting Fives

Men's College Basketball Preview

November 09, 2008|By DON MARKUS

Hey, is it warm in here?

(Five coaches on the hot seat)

Billy Gillispie, Kentucky: : Anyone who signs a contract in Lexington knows what's in store. Win a national championship early on, as Rick Pitino and Tubby Smith did, and you're playing with house money. If not, you're on borrowed time.

Sidney Lowe, North Carolina State: : The Wolfpack finished 11th in the Atlantic Coast Conference last year after being picked third, and J.J. Hickson left after only one season. Lowe's 1983 championship ring will get him only so far.

Pat Knight, Texas Tech: : Folks in Lubbock might not be paying attention to basketball for a while, but The General's son should heed what happened to Sean Sutton at Oklahoma State after replacing his Hall of Fame father.

Tim Floyd, Southern California: : If Floyd's tenure in Tinseltown is short-lived, it will be because of what has happened off the court. O.J. Mayo is done with the Trojans, but the NCAA might not be.

Mark Gottfried, Alabama: : Gottfried could catch the same break in Tuscaloosa that Knight will be getting, but once the pigskins are put away, fans will be clamoring for Gottfried's departure if the Crimson Tide doesn't improve quickly.

What recession?

(Five rising programs)

Wake Forest: : A year after the death of Skip Prosser, Dino Gaudio adds three of the ACC's top freshmen without losing much. The Freakin' Deacons should be back in force this season.

Minnesota: : Tubby Smith can coach and recruit in Minneapolis without the unrealistic expectations of fans at Kentucky. After losing to Maryland in the National Invitation Tournament, the Gophers might be ready to make a run at the NCAA tournament.

Arizona State: : Former N.C. State coach Herb Sendek seemed like an odd fit for the Pacific-10 given his plodding offense, but the turmoil at Arizona with Lute Olson's retirement could help Sendek get settled in Tempe.

Tulsa: : Doug Wojcik, who played at Navy with David Robinson, took his team to college basketball's third championship, the College Basketball Invitational, and he could use that and a 25-win season as a catalyst to reach the sport's top-tier event this season.

Drake: : With the memory of last season's 101-99 overtime loss to Western Kentucky still burning in the minds of the Bulldogs, new coach Mark Phelps was left plenty in the cupboard after Keno Davis went to Providence.

Didn't you used to be ...

(Five declining programs)

Indiana: : Though Tom Crean hopes to turn things around in a hurry in Bloomington after coming over from Marquette to clean up Kelvin Sampson's mess, this will be a long, cold winter at Assembly Hall.

St. John's: : Fans under 25 have probably not heard of Lou Carnesecca and think Chris Mullin is the crew-cutted president of the Golden State Warriors. Norm Roberts is the latest of a recent line unable to jump-start the Red Storm.

Princeton: : Sidney Johnson, who grew up in Baltimore, had a rough first season at the former Ivy League powerhouse. One more year like that and Pete Carril might have to come out of retirement.

Michigan: : The remarkable title run with Glen Rice and Rumeal Robinson is 20 years in the past, and the Fab Five is a faded (and a bit tainted) memory in Ann Arbor, where John Beilein might be regretting leaving West Virginia.

LSU: : Last year's midseason firing of John Brady came less than two years after he took the Tigers to the Final Four, and it could be a long time before they even get back to the NCAA tournament.

Oh, to be young

(Five of the top freshmen)

B.J. Mullens, Ohio State, 7-0 center: : Mullens has known for a long time he wanted to be a Buckeye, having committed as a high school freshman. He will now have the job of replacing Kosta Koufos, who left after one year for the NBA.

Tyreke Evans, Memphis, 6-6 guard: : Though confused with Tyree Evans, the junior college player who nearly went to Maryland, this kid will help fill the void left by the departure of Chris Douglas-Roberts.

Samardo Samuels, Louisville, 6-8 forward: : Rick Pitino is happy that the Jamaica native, last year's top high school player, according to USA Today, took up basketball rather than bobsledding.

Tyler Zeller, North Carolina, 7-0 forward: : If Tyler Hansbrough's shin injury continues to nag the ACC's top player, Zeller could step right in and give the Tar Heels another burgeoning star.

Greg Monroe, Georgetown, 6-10 forward:: Monroe is much more polished coming in than Roy Hibbert was as a freshman and will be more reminiscent of Alonzo Mourning.

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