After adding my little snippet about Montana State's stadium expansion plans, I also found something on renovations taking place at SIU in Carbondale (I was only looking into SIU because UMass plays them in hoops tonight with the winner ultimately facing Duke at Madison Square Garden). My guess is I could find similar things on any number of FCS programs' websites, so I'll just leave it alone. The point is, not every facility at this level of football is a just few pieces of aluminum around a patch of grass.
Speaking of UMass-Southern Illinois, college basketball season is officially underway, though in the tamest of manners. The most intriguing game to this point has been IUPUI and Northeastern. That being said, the UMass-SIU game will officially be the game of the year to this point! Sadly, that still doesn't get it any television coverage. UMass's following game, however, will be seen nationwide when they go to #12 Memphis on Monday night. Even without CDR, Derrick Rose and Joey Dorsey, Memphis still has Antonio Anderson, Robert Dozier, and Tyreke Evans, and that means bad things for my alma mater. But on to more important issues, the national picture:
UNC has received every single first place vote in both the AP and Coaches' polls. Makes sense, seeing as they were 35-3 last year and return virtually every important piece from that team. In fact, Ty Lawson, Wayne Ellington and Tyler Hansbrough could potentially all be first team all-ACC. Wouldn't that be lovely. Really the only thing I care about is that Psycho T finishes his career 4-0 at Cameron Indoor, and the Dookies get laughed out of the NCAA's before the sweet 16 for the third straight year. Who knows, maybe 2nd seeded Duke will lose in the second round again, this time to an upstart, 10th seeded A10 school from New England (and ideally that wouldn't be URI). Anyway, here are a dozen names worth watching this year from teams other than UNC:
1 - Stephen Curry, SG, Davidson. We all got to know him last March, and thankfully he elected to stay at Davidson for at least another year. They lost their point guard, so hopefully someone else can step into that role so that Steph doesn't have to create his own shot all year, though he's more than capable.
2 - Antonio Anderson, SF, Memphis. A huge bulk of last year's scoring is gone from the Tigers. Anderson, who was more of a Josh Pace type on that team, could step into a starring role this year.
3 - Tyler Smith, SF, Tennessee. Smith overtook Chris Lofton (who we later found out had been diagnosed with cancer - a fairly legitimate excuse I'd say) as the go-to player for the Vols last year. That team lost a lot of talent, but Smith is back and should keep UT in the top 25 all year.
4 - Darren Collison, PG, UCLA. The Bruins are going to try to start two point guards this year in Collison and hyped freshman Jrue Holiday. If Holiday can basically be Russell Westbrook 2.0, they should be fine and Collison could end up being an All-American.
5 - Hasheem Thabeet, C, Connecticut.
For three years, 7'2 Roy Hibbert manned the middle for Georgetown, daring Big East foes to attack the basket. When he first arrived, he was raw, but had potential. You know how much he improved from his first game to his last? About 0.3% according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The 7'3 Thabeet, on the other hand, went to UConn with even less prior basketball experience, but by the end of last season (his second in Storrs), Thabeet was more feared than Hibbert. If he continues to improve at that pace, the Huskies are going to be scary, because this kid is an absolute matchup nightmare.
6 - Jeff Pendergraph, C, Arizona State. Pendergraph almost tip-slammed ASU into the tournament last year before a whack call saved UCLA's ass (where have I heard that before?) This year he and guard James Harden (also a stud) will have ASU probably as the only challengers to UCLA in the Pac 10. And yes, I just called out USC, Arizona and WaSU.
7 - Jeff Adrien, PF, Connecticut. You know how guys like Paul Millsap, Leon Powe, Carl Landry and Ryan Gomes always seem to have great college careers, but for one reason or another get overlooked on draft day and then turn out to be great role players that make their teams way better? Yeah. This is one of those guys.
8 - Chris Lowe, PG, Massacusetts.
A four year starter at point guard is rare, but C-Lowe has been well worth it. In the first year of the Travis Ford era, Lowe had to play over 30 minutes a game as a freshman due to the dismissal of Maurice Maxwell. He's been a stud ever since. Reading some of the previews on CBS sportsline, I noticed that Lowe wasn't listed as one of the top 40 point/combo guards in the country. However, Tyrese Rice is up there, and is also "under serious consideration" to be an All American according to their expert, Gary Parrish. Hmmm, Lowe is a pass-first point guard (crazy thought, isn't it?) who averaged 12 and 6 last year for a team that went 25-11 (and is 50-20 since the start of 06-07). Rice averaged 21 a game last year shooting 43% (mmm... LOTS of shots) for a team that went 14-17. Good standards, Gary.
9 - Terrence Williams, SF, Louisville. Williams will benefit from the presence of Earl Clark, who Andy Katz aptly calls a "matchup nightmare", to get some freedom on the wing. Williams does most of his damage slashing and in transition, which makes sense because the kid is an absolute athletic freak of nature. Louisville vs. UConn at Freedom Hall, February 2nd. Mark those calendars.
10 - Dionte Christmas, G/F, Temple. This guy and Derrick Brown of Xavier will be the two stallions of the Atlantic 10 this year. Christmas was born to score points, and that's what he does. He actually had a better sophomore season than junior year, but that may only mean that he's going to be more motivated this time around. Temple should be able to compete with Xavier and UMass for the A10 crown again this year.
11 - Eric Maynor, G, Virginia Commonwealth.
The man who sunk the Duke ship in the 2007 Tournament is back for his senior year, and while I'm not suggesting he's anywhere near as talented, I see some similarities between him and Stephen Curry. He's basically a natural two guard who is undersized but can create his own shot off the dribble and is a scoring fiend. Without question my pick (and pretty much everyone else's) to win CAA player of the year.
12 - Sharron Collins, PG, Kansas.
With Russell Robinson, Sasha Kaun, Darnell Jackson, Brandon Rush, Darrell Arthur and Mario Chalmers all gone from the Jayhawks, Collins and Center Cole Aldrich are the only two players back from last year's 8-man rotation (and Aldrich... not really). If Kansas is going to be any good this year, Collins may have to shoulder the load for a while. Oh, and if you're like me and saying, "Jesus, how did Kansas have so many studs on one team last year?!" Keep this in mind: JR Giddens and David Padget were both seniors last year, playing for New Mexico and Louisville, respectively, having transferred from Kansas (probably because Giddens is a poor man's Rush and Padget was tired of Jackson dunking on him in practice). That Bill Self sure can recruit.
So that's more or less my outlook for the season. I didn't bother putting a 25 together because, having seen the polls already, I probably would have used those way too heavily and not been very original.
As always, Go UMass.