The Hansen-Immel Debates, Part I: NCAA hoops 2005
Topic: Preseason College Basketball Projections
Immel: Parity in college basketball has been on the rise for years at this point, but there has never been a season like the one we are about to embark upon in regards to this. No fewer than 15 teams have a legit shot at taking home the title in April, and five of them reside in the nation's clear-cut No. 1 conference, the ACC.
Several of these top 15 teams are buoyed by the unexpected returns of superstar players such as Hakim Warrick of Syracuse, Wayne Simien of Kansas and Lawrence Roberts of Mississippi State.
I guess with the unpredictable behavior of underclassmen coming and going, nothing less than chaos and impermanence is to be expected.
Hansen: There is nothing in sports quite like college basketball. In my estimation it is the greatest sport on earth, and because of that fact there are only two things I am aware of at this very minute. One, that I hate Duke, and two, there are only 138 days left until Selection Sunday.
Immel, you’re on the bubble.
Immel: I've thought about that for 15 seconds and I'm not sure what that means.
Hansen: It means let's get going with the questions.
The season officially begins on Nov. 11 with the expanded version of the Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. What are you most looking forward to this year?
Immel: With all the clamoring regarding how the NBA is feasting on all the good young talent in college basketball, we've finally reached a season in which the majority of the upper-echelon teams are led by experienced seniors. I've always been a huge proponent of needing senior leadership, especially in the backcourt, as an integral ingredient for winning six games at the end of the year. With the abundance of teams who possess these seasoned players, I am most looking forward to seeing which of them step up in their last opportunity to rise to the occasion.
Hansen: I think what I’m most looking forward to is the daily excitement of it all. College Hoops 2Night on ESPN; Joe Lunardi’s insane ramblings about the RPI and why St. Joe’s is the best team since UNLV ’91; Jay Bilas waxing poetic about any and every issue and coming off as the only intelligent employee at the Worldwide Leader; road games in Eugene, Oregon; seeing which freshmen across the country give UNC’s Marvin Williams a run at Freshman of the Year honors; Marques Johnson yelling ”Yakka!” during a Washington State-Cal game; hoping for the day when we see UConn freshman guard A.J. Price fully healthy again; counting down the days until Billy Donovan gets fired, and praying like mad that the Pac-10 represents all fans of West Coast basketball with a good showing in the NCAA tournament this spring.
Which four teams immediately come to mind when talking about who is likely to get to St. Louis come spring?
Immel: Kansas, Wake Forest, North Carolina and Michigan State.
Hansen: Way to go out on a limb there, Immel!
Hansen: I'm going with Kansas, UConn, Arizona and Illinois - that's off the top of my head and it's subject to change before Nov. 11.
Immel: Illinois is going to be good as hell.
Hansen: Yeah, but I'm not a fan.
Immel: They're my No. 5.
Hansen: I want to pick someone not likely to be a top two seed like all of our choices.
Immel: Michigan State will more than likely be a three. And if Ron Steele can step in and do his thing, I like Alabama.
Hansen: I really like Maryland this year for some reason. I think Nik Caner-Medley and Ekene Ibekwe are going to have breakout seasons in the frontcourt. And how can anyone not like John Gilchrist at the point?
Immel: Caner-Medley busted out last year with around 12 (points) per game, and while Ibekwe will be a force in the future, I think losing Jamar Smith to graduation really hurts this team. The other major problem is that they don't have any consistent shooters other than Mike Jones, and I'm not sure Gary Williams can completely count on him to hit the big shots down the stretch in the tourney.
Hansen: What Caner-Medley did to Florida in Gainesville last year was a thing of beauty. Did I mention that I hate Florida and think Billy Donovan is the single most overrated thing about college basketball?
Anyway, another team I love this year is Oregon. I think people from around the nation will see that while the Ducks may be young and vulnerable in the frontcourt, they’ll be as exciting as anyone thanks to an incredible group of incoming freshmen in Eugene. I know you love Nike U. anyway, Immel.
Immel: I loved them more before they stole Malik (Hairston) away from Ben Howland, but its really nice to see Ernie Kent keeping that program at a high level after losing Luke's 1 & 2. I think this is going to be a year where they have a lot of growing pains, but if Malik sticks around for a second season in Eugene, I believe they have a legit shot at a potential Final Four run in 2006.
Bryce (Taylor), Aaron (Brooks) and Malik shouldn’t even play in the same conference let alone the same team. Those guys are too dynamic for the naked eye to handle.
Who are the frontrunners for the Wooden Award?
Immel: Lawrence Roberts, Hakim Warrick, Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Kennedy Winston. Jarrett Jack and Francisco Garcia round out my top seven.
Hansen: Just for the readers’ information, Immel is in love with Kennedy Winston. He was all set to go to Cal and then he had the family issues and wound up in Tuscaloosa. It’s a damn shame, too, Cal could use him this year with Leon Powe being out for the season.
Immel: Not only him, but they also lost a kid by the name of Julian Sensley who is a budding star and will dominate the WAC this season as a junior at Hawaii. Cal could have had Powe, Sensley, Ken and (Marquse) Kately = National Title. Ben, you could play the point on that team, for real.
Hansen: Yeah, you're probably right but I’m sure Ayinde Ubaka is happy running the show in Berkeley. Anyway, my top five candidates to win the Wooden Award in 2005 are Julius Hodge, Chris Paul, Lawrence Roberts, Salim Stoudamire and Sean May.
Immel: Julius Hodge is terribly overrated, and Hakim Warrick is certainly better than Lawrence Roberts. Although I agree Roberts will be a finalist because I picked him, I can think of at least three power forwards I’d rather have over him. He just carries his team and gets tons of credit, which he deserves because he's a fantastic player, but there are others out there more worthy, in my opinion
Hansen: If you win SEC Player of the Year (like Roberts did last season) you're worthy.
But getting back to your point about Hodge, even if he's overrated it's only a byproduct of being from New York originally and playing in the ACC. The kid can play. He's an outstanding all-around player. He averaged 18 points, six boards and nearly four assists per game last year and I still don’t think he weighs 150 pounds.
Okay, last question for Part I of this debate. Who are your sleepers and who is overrated from a team and individual standpoint?
Immel: Sleeper teams besides the Crimson Tide include UTEP with Omar Thomas, Filiberto Rivera and Jason Williams; Memphis with the best forward duo in America in Sean Banks and Rodney Carney, and Michigan with Lester Abram and Daniel Horton in the backcourt, a lot of nice pieces coming off the bench, and the rotation of Courtney Sims, Chris Hunter, Brent Petway (who's nasty) and Graham Brown down low.
Hansen: Impressive list, Immel. My underrated teams out there also include Memphis – watch for freshman guard Darius Washington – as well as Virginia. Gonzaga’s always underrated at some point during the year and I like Mark Few’s team again in 2005. But what about the players?
Immel: There are tons of underrated players, but some of my favorites include Jamaal Levy of Wake, Chuck Hayes of UK, B.J Elder of Georgia Tech, Joey Graham of OK State, Tim Smith of ETSU, and Dameon Mason of Marquette. Oh, and you've got to include Curtis Stinson as perhaps the most underrated player nationally out of Iowa State.
Hansen: None of the four guys I have on my list are really underrated, per se, but they don’t exactly get the pub that others with lesser abilities receive, either. I have Patrick Sparks, who is finally eligible to play at Kentucky this year after transferring in from Western Kentucky where I thought he was outstanding. Brandon Roy from Washington is a future pro who no one east of Spokane, Wash. knows about; Stanford’s Chris Hernandez could be the best point guard in the nation but I’m guessing no one in the ACC even knows his name, and Craig Smith out of Boston College has been a monster for two years but rarely gets mentioned in the same breath as a Wayne Simien, a David Lee or a Shavlik Randolph.
Immel: My other sleeper team was Pepperdine with Alex Acker, Yakhouba Diawara (the most underrated player in the west), Glen McGowan and Terrance Johnson.
Hansen: Yes, we get that you have a whole army of sleeper teams. Thanks, Immel. I want to talk about more of the overrated players in the country as I’m sure you do, too.
Immel: Overrated guys and teams are a lot more fun to talk about, and I pull no punches as you know, Ben Hansen.
Hansen: Oh I know.
Immel: All right, more overrated fellas include Andrew Bogut of Utah, Luke Schenscher of Georgia Tech and James White of Cincinnati, Dee Brown of Illinois, Anthony Roberson of Florida and Julius Hodge of NC State. In terms of overrated teams, I've got UConn, Texas and Gonzaga at the top of my list.
Hansen: My list of overrated players begins and ends with one name (but I’ll expand it to a top three anyway): J.J. Redick.
Here’s a guy who is widely proclaimed as this great nation’s best shooter yet he has never broken the 40% barrier from three-point range. That’s like arbitrarily naming Jim Edmonds baseball’s best hitter simply because his swing looks pretty and he has a tendency to go yard.
Basically, whoever Duke’s best player is in any given year is a lock to win this award thanks to that moron Vitale. The other two guys on my list are Luke Schenscher and Matt Walsh from Florida.
Hansen: And my list of overrated teams consists of Syracuse, Michigan State, Florida (every single year), Mississippi State and Texas.
Notes: The true identities of these two morons are Ben Hansen, the Senior Editor of GOAZCATS.com, and Jonathan Dintzer, one of the most informed members of the GOAZCATS.com message board community.
Dintzer grew up in southern California as a lifelong UCLA fan but now attends the University of Arizona. He enjoys long walks on the beach, phone calls with former Bruin guard Toby Bailey and a nice bottle of Glenlivet from 1974.
Hansen, meanwhile, is still in the process of growing up.
Check back this week for Part II in the Hansen-Immel Debates with a continued topic of what to expect out of the upcoming college basketball season.