NOTE: I am venturing outside of tennis for the first time in the site’s history, but a twitter poll (@danmartintennis) recommended that I throw some other sports and even topics pertaining to pop culture/the arts into the mix as well. Tennis will remain the focus of this site, but a few other topics may jump into the picture. They will typically be sports and cultural events that draw my interest so the non-tennis content will give readers a chance to see more of what makes me tick.
I grew up in Kentucky and, with several stops in between, live in Kentucky. It is hard to really explain the importance of college basketball in Kentucky to those who have not lived in the region. My interest in college basketball bordered on insanity from the ages of 12 to about 25. At some point, I continued to enjoy the sport but also ceased to invest too much of myself into it. This was a healthy move on my part and perhaps the region should do likewise. Given the number of sports radio programs and websites dedicated solely to area college basketball teams, any large shift in this regard seems unlikely.
Diallo is one of the young but talented Kentucky Wildcats
The University of Kentucky has been sending a group of players to the NBA every spring since John Calipari arrived as head coach for the 2009-2010 season. Calipari’s 8 seasons have seen Kentucky reach the Final Four or better 4 times while also being the program of choice for NBA bound talent. This Kentucky team is as inexperienced as any in UK’s history. Three players who logged minutes last season returned for their second season, but only one of those players received significant playing time. Like most of Calipari’s teams, this squad is athletic and has the potential to be disruptive on defense. It is unclear how Kentucky’s offense will emerge and whether or not its interior players will be strong enough to grab key rebounds. My suspicion is that this UK team is deep and can be frighteningly good by the end of the season, but realistically I also know that it has many moving parts and a potential lack of beef in the paint.
My Prediction: A Sweet 16 or Elite 8 Finish
Dayton Flyers Off to an Odd Start
Anthony Grant was a decorated player at Dayton who had a successful stint as head coach at Virginia Commonwealth followed by a lukewarm run at the University of Alabama. Grant spent some time as an assistant in the NBA before returning to Dayton this past Spring when Archie Miller left to take over at Indiana University. Archie Miller’s frequent NCAA trips plus an elite 8 finish place some pressure on Grant to continue winning at that cycle. Dayton’s students and general fans care about the team and turn up with 11,000 or more warm bodies at each home game. This may not be the 23,000+ fans Kentucky averages per home game, but Dayton expects to win winnable games and to push the big time programs in college hoops when they get a shot at the blue-bloods. Grant is off to a rocky start with losses to Hofstra, Old Dominion, and Penn plus two losses to midlevel SEC schools. Dayton would normally go 3-2 or 4-1 vs. that slate rather than 0-5. Grant likely gets a one-season grace period, but losses to Ivy League schools won’t be tolerated for very long.
My Prediction: Grant more or less stabilizes things and lands a few good recruits to keep the general peace in the Gem City
Georgetown Hoyas Bring Back Ewing
Patrick Ewing is the most decorated player in Georgetown University basketball history. He led the Hoyas to 3 national championship games in a 4-year span highlighted by the 1984 NCAA title. Georgetown has only been to one Final Four since 1985’s NCAA runner-up finish. For many years, NBA all-stars named Ewing, Iverson, Mourning, and Mutombo likely kept Georgetown’s NCAA reputation a little ahead of its typical results. Still, the Big East program should be in or near the top 25 most season with occasional jaunts into the top 10. There is a lot of basketball talent in and near Washington, DC and Baltimore. Georgetown should get its share of that talent and compete well. Patrick Ewing has plenty of experience as an assistant coach in the NBA. How well he learns to recruit young men aged 14-18 and relate to players aged 18-22 will determine his success. At a minimum, he should be able to replicate recent success levels at Georgetown.
My Prediction: A 20 plus win season due in part to some soft non-conference scheduling and a round of 32 NCAA finish. The real questions will come with teams Ewing has to put together. Will he tolerate high school/AAU primadonnas?
Louisville Seeks Wins Amid Turbulence
The Louisville Cardinals have been among the top tier of college basketball from 2011-2017. An NCAA title, NCAA Final Four, and trips to the elite 8 and sweet 16 have been part of those years. So too was a scandal with prostitutes being used to lure recruits to their program. That alone had put their program into a state of discomfort, but news broke in August about an FBI investigation regarding pay for play agreements between shoe companies and the families of recruits. The University of Louisville was listed among the programs the FBI was investigating. This was too much for the university and soon their basketball coach and athletic director were fired. A coveted recruit was also deemed ineligible by the university. A pre-season top 10 team had lost its hall-of-fame coach and a top talent. Questions emerged: Could an interim coach with no head coaching experience win at a high rate? Would players be overwhelmed by scandals, change, and investigations? The season is too young to offer any real answers. To this point, Louisville looks promising, but it has absorbed two close losses while also posting a win over regional rival Indiana University. Louisville has experienced talent that must weather a storm while seeking wins and postseason success.
My Prediction: A sweet 16 or round of 32 NCAA finish and an uncertain future as no one exactly knows who will be their athletic director or head coach and scholarship and postseason limits may also be heading their direction.
Indiana Hoosiers Start Over
Archie Miller left the Universty of Dayton after a great deal of success in the Atlantic 10 and NCAA tournament. Indiana should be one of the better jobs in college basketball, and if IU can keep 50% or more of the top prospects from Indianapolis in the Hoosier state it becomes one of the best jobs in college basketball. Miller is energetic with recruiting and should up the talent level in Bloomington. That will take time. His first season will be a story of trying to adapt players he did not recruit to his coaching style. To this point, IU has grabbed a moral victory versus Duke and has been noticeably better than it was under the previous regime while still losing with some frequency.
My Prediction: IU will be in the top 25 as early as next season, but this team will struggle to reach the NCAA tournament and may instead be looking at a deep run in the NIT.