Hoopsbag: On the Big Ten, Kanter, Mizzou

Each Wednesday, your humble college basketball hoops blogger (er, me) will respond to your questions, comments, and nonsensical rants in this space. To submit, visit this page by clicking the link under my name in the upper right-hand corner of the page. You can also email me or send me your entries via Twitter. Let's begin with a couple of video responses about conference supremacy and a theoretical Nets-Blue Devils matchup ...

Jordan White from Byron, Ga. writes: How much longer do you think we'll have to wait before we get the Enes Kanter decision?

Eamonn Brennan: Ah, the $64,000 question. (OK, so maybe "Will Enes Kanter be eligible?" is the $64,000 question. This is, like, the $32,000 question. Was that how that show worked? Enthusiasts of 1950s-era game shows can feel free to chime in.) To be honest, I have no idea. It doesn't seem like anyone really knows. If they say they do, at this point, they're probably just hearing rumors.

What I would say is that the NCAA Eligibility Center is going to take its time. Kanter isn't the only player with an outstanding eligibility case on the NCAA's desk. With Josh Selby's status at Kansas still uncertain, Kanter isn't even the only high-profile player still in question.

The NCAA is not going to feel like it needs to rush. Last year, Mississippi State forward Renardo Sidney was facing his own eligibility concerns, and though the NCAA cleared Sidney academically in August 2009, it didn't reach a final decision on his athletic eligibility until March 5, 2010. The Kanter case may not drag on that long -- the NCAA would seem to have all the pertinent info on its desk by this point -- but it's come this far already. Holding one's breath is not an advisable option.

Mike from Denver writes: How do you feel about Missouri's chances of making a run at the Big 12 Championship? If Tony Mitchell can't get eligible for the second semester, do you think Ricardo Ratliffe will be enough help in the low post for the Tigers?

Brennan: How are Missouri's chances? Good. Even without Mitchell, Mike Anderson has a team filled with top-notch veterans and really good guard talent. Kim English is a major breakout candidate (and an all-around media darling, for good reason). Guards Michael Denmon and Michael Dixon, Jr. are quality returners. Freshman guard Phil Pressey should be an immediate starter and the perfect player for Anderson's uptempo system. And, yes, there was a reason forward Ricardo Ratliffe was one of the most-prized junior college transfers this year: He's a very talented interior presence who averaged 27 points and 11 boards a game in JC last season.

There's also something to be said for Anderson's "40 Minutes of Hell-esque" system. It's one of those rare college hoops styles that makes a sheer talent gap less noticeable, and the Tigers are always going to be a tough out in the Big 12, even if their talent doesn't match the Kansases, Kansas States, Baylors and Texases of the world.

Still, Mitchell would no doubt put this team on a higher trajectory, and without him, a Big 12 title seems like an optimistic scenario. More likely is a top four or five finish. But if things are clustered at the top, there's no reason Missouri can't make a run at the league title. (For more on Mizzou, check out Andy Katz's latest Daily Word.)

Dan from Columbus, Ohio writes: In your Big Ten summer shootaround comments, you indicated that Michigan State and Purdue were a notch above Ohio State. In fact, you said the best-case scenario for MSU and Purdue was a national title, while winning the Big Ten was the best case for OSU. Given that OSU returns four of five starters from a team that used its starters for more of their minutes than anyone, and they add a top five recruiting class led by Jared Sullinger, who should contend for Big Ten player of the year and All-America honors. Clearly I do not agree with you, because the national title is the best case scenario for OSU this season. Why did you suggest otherwise?

Brennan: OK, I'll admit it. I was wrong about Ohio State. Well, maybe a little wrong. It's not like I said they'd have a bad season. And the closer the season gets, the more frequently I hear persuasive arguments for why Ohio State should start the season in the top five. With all that returning talent and the influx of Sullinger, it's not hard to disagree.

Here's the thing, though: With Michigan State and Purdue, we know what we're getting. All the pieces that made those teams so good in 2009-10 are back, and it doesn't require much imagination to see them succeeding again.

With Ohio State, there are questions. How does the team collectively reproduce Evan Turner's singular dominance? Who handles the ball? Is Sullinger ready to work immediately, or will he need time -- as many high-profile big men do -- to adjust to the rigors of the college game? How does Ohio State's style (four guards, one big man) change with Sullinger's contribution? Without the focus on Turner, will William Buford go from second-fiddle to star? Does Jon Diebler get so many open looks? How will this team rebound?

See what I mean? It's not that Ohio State can't be good. They really, really can. They might, if all goes well, be a better team in 2010-11. It's just that, you know, ranking teams in the preseason is hard, and when you lose a player that just had a season like Evan Turner, and you have so many questions to answer in that regard, it's going to be difficult to take you over more proven commodities.

JR from @themikandrill writes: What returning ACC player do you see making the biggest leap this year in terms of improvement?

Brennan: This is a cliché answer, but I'd have to go with Duke forward Mason Plumlee. He is a skilled, athletic big man with loads of potential, but once Duke found their stride in 2009-10 -- led in the post by Brian Zoubek, Kyle Singler and Lance Thomas -- he didn't have much time to show that off. This season should be much different. Plumlee will have plenty of opportunities to become a very productive player.

BigBlueBagel from Atlanta writes: Why don't we just go ahead and quit trying to cover up the fact that Nike, Adidas and AAU basketball control college recruiting? A kid's summer league team (shoe sponsor), pretty much dictates what school he will play at. Isn't it pathetic that in some cases, a recruit's high school coach is never even met?

Brennan: Um, yes? It is? I'm not sure anyone is trying to cover up the corruption inherent in college hoops recruiting. At this point, pretty much everyone knows about it, has heard stories, has read of the countless examples of this practice, and so on. I do think the media (and, yes, I realize this includes myself) could do a bit better job keeping that stuff front of mind. There probably isn't enough reporting about it, given how pervasive AAU basketball is. But at the end of the day, it's no mystery. Until the system fundamentally changes, living with the vagaries of hoops recruiting is one of those Faustian bargains college basketball fans have to make to continue to enjoy the sport they love.

The Fake Gimel Martinez (@fakegimel) writes: With highly-rated 2011 commits for both, do you think the 2011 UK/UofL game stands to break records on insufferable hype?

Brennan: Yes, but it's good to see we're already starting the backlash. That game is still, what, 14 months away? As of this mailbag, I think the anti-hype is already outworking the hype. Impressive.

Keith A. from Seattle, Wash. writes: I would like to know if the Washington Huskies are making noise on a national level yet. Since Romar has been here we have had success over the last few years and we are starting to recruit some great kids consistently. I want to know if they are getting to the point of getting respect on the national level.

Brennan: That's awfully hard to quantify, but last year's NCAA tournament run certainly didn't hurt. Casual fans outside the West Coast may not be as familiar with the Huskies as hard-core hoops heads, or Pac-10 fans, but within college basketball circles it's easy to see what Lorenzo Romar has done. He's created a program that competes for top recruits, that develops those prospects into successful players, and that should be a force in the Pac-10 for the foreseeable future. It'd be hard to say the Huskies are overlooked.

Brittany from Niagara Falls, N.Y. writes: When does the TV start showing the college basketball season this year?

Brennan: I don't know if this question was submitted seriously or sarcastically, so let's answer both:

1. Believe it or not, Nov. 8. On that night, Pittsburgh and Rhode Island tip things off over on ESPNU. And don't forget about ESPN's college basketball tipoff marathon on Nov. 16, a mind-blowing 24-hour spate of hoops that marks, at least for this blogger, the unofficial start of the real-deal college hoops season.

2. Not soon enough.